Spit Mask
You May Feel Some Pressure
aufnahme + wiedergabe

In the three years since their debut cassette release Swallow, Spit Mask uprooted themselves from their Texas homebase and moved to Berlin. The question of whether their proximity to that city’s burgeoning techno and darkwave communities would sand down the rough edges of Rachel and Bryan Jackson’s harsh, electro-industrial sound are quelled by the first moments of You May Feel Some Pressure; if anything the harsh soundscape of “Gender Assassin”, complete with degraded samples, rough hewn cycling bass and rusty cymbal programming reveals the project to be even more intemperate and bellicose than before.

In some ways the LP resists assessment from the perspective of what has improved in the years since we first heard them. The appeal of Spit Mask’s material has always been deeply linked to how coarse and fractious their compositions are, which means that this LP’s major refinement is in how much more raw and unrefined they manage to come across here. A song like “Iron Clad Alibi” perfectly captures that paradox; the clarity and fullness of the mix are definitely a level up, but the ultimate effect is in how they throw the distorted vocals and crunched-up percussion sounds into sharp relief. It’s also the quality that allows an intensely aggressive number like “Throated” (one of the moments on the record where the Jacksons’ vocals are treated to good effect) to land – its chittering, 16th note bassline and acidic percussion blossoming into an fullness that is bracingly ugly.

Those ill-tempered sonics really match up with Spit Mask’s aesthetic presentation, a mixture of blood-in-mouth antipathy and sado-masochistic imagery that pervades their lyrics and the sample choices. Both subjects are well-trod in the broader history of industrial, although there’s a definite feeling of unease in how Spit Mask implements them here; Rachel Jackson intoning “There is no love when there is no abuse” on “Puppy” is effective precisely because it directly raises the question of abuse as consensual act between lovers, and the implications thereof. To wit; a lot of Spit Mask’s music addresses sexual practice, but more broadly the dynamics and complexities that surround it. Hence you get “Skin on Skin”, an unsexy song about sex with the mechanical and rhythmic sound design reinforcing Bryan Jackson’s most unhinged vocal to date.

It’s only through repeat listens that the grim humour in the title of You May Feel Some Pressure becomes clear; it’s a record that thrives on discomfort and wants to push that via the combined potency of its gritty construction and subject matter. Finding enjoyment in it is always mixed with a certain level of disquiet, one that doesn’t necessarily dissipate with time or exposure. I’m sure Spit Mask wouldn’t have it any other way.

Buy it.