When we reviewed Weird Candle’s Regeneration last year we made a point of noting that the band was moving fast enough that any particular snapshot of them was unlikely to give a complete picture of where they were at musically. Robert Katerwol and Kaleb Blagdon haven’t slowed down much since then, although their new long player does feel like it captures the energy of their shows. At well under 25 minutes of jerky, rhythmic synthpunk, Alter Ego replicates the awkward vigor of the duo’s live performances almost perfectly.
At least part of that feeling comes directly from Katerwol’s tense, shuddering vocals. It feels odd to assign a descriptor like “confident” to them, given that they often sound like they’re coming unglued as they leave his mouth, but it’s undeniable how much more impactful they sound. When Katerwol tosses off a simple “Let go!” during the chorus of the thudding “Control” it sounds caught somewhere between a plea and an order, a real spike in the themes of discipline and restraint that the track revolves around. On the stripped down title track his chopped off syllables take full focus, allowing the brief song to build a surprising amount of momentum considering its brief 1:47 runtime.
From a musical perspective, the band is still making the most of a more limited palette, although the structures of these songs display a notable discipline in their construction. Resisting excessive repetition and ornamentation, the majority are able to make their point in under three minutes, riding through town on fluttering kick drums and bubbling bass sounds before disappearing back into the night. That’s not to suggest that these songs are simple, just that Weird Candle have gotten good at capturing and executing an idea without any dilly dallying. Check out “Reverent Traces”, a three minute wind up that keeps tightening past the point that it should fall apart completely but somehow holds together via sheer momentum. “Animal Magnetism” knows well enough to just run with the rhythm established at its outset, adding some simple pads that accent Katerwol’s resigned “I’m in a bad place now” hook.
Alter Ego ends up being a surprisingly accurate portrait of Weird Candle as a band, focusing as it does less on the specifics of their ever evolving take on synthpunk and more on the feeling of their performance. These songs will no doubt sound great when brought to the stage, although don’t be surprised if they sound a whole lot different; Weird Candle have made a virtue of fluctuation, and avoiding inertia by staying in motion.