Let the Children Scream
Kris Esfandiari’s first LP as NGHTCRWLR is pretty distinct from her work in noise rock act King Woman. While both projects thrive in grit and sonic murk, Let the Children Scream finds Esfandiari exploring industrialized soundscapes that vascillate between tense waves of noise and post-withhouse like arrangements of drums and bass. It’s a fraught record that taps into some deep veins of unease, subtle and brutal by turns.
In one mode NGHTCRWLR is all about big waves static and shredding distortion, with rhythm and percussion slaved to the surges of feedback. A track like “Daymare” is musically excoriating but also disconcerting, due largely to the unnerving samples of people speaking in tongues and the yelled and shrieked vocals from Esfandiari that ascend and descend in unnatural fashion. Similarly, the title track uses a schmaltzy children’s choir to set the mood before rattling drum machines and deep basses provide a backing for Esfandiari to slither and shout her way through. The strategy of the familiar being warped to disquieting effect is most obvious on a puzzling if not unwelcome cover of The Prodigy’s “Firestarter”, where crackling breaks run up against crushed versions of the original’s sounds.
Esfandiari doesn’t necessarily need brute force to achieve the same effect; the latter half of the LP especially makes use of a more low-key, but no less perturbing arsenal of sounds. “Shine!” is a track that could almost be chill, but whose languid arrangement and vocal delivery is offset by the distant human voice samples that sound like laughter, or crying, or both. See also the bumping drum machine rhythm of “One Nation Under Creep”, a song that plays it straight with jazzy a jazzy vocal that gets modulated to pieces and fed into cavernous reverbs. The dichotomy of approaches is laid bare on closer “Moxofosoleesa”, whose hypnotic repetition of words and and degraded loops give the effect of the record collapsing in on itself.
Let the Children Scream isn’t a fun listen by any means, but its a record that has a lot of focus in its aims even as it applies chaos to achieve them. There’s something compelling about Kris Esfandiari’s dedication to ugliness and acrimony as NGHTCRWLR that makes it difficult to passively consume, forcing engagement in straightforward and more subliminal ways.