Second Still by Second Still (Manic Depression Records)
In the late 1970’s and early 80’s creative types were coming together to create music that reflected and challenged the angst and anxiety of the era. With Margaret Thatcher’s politics in England, Reagan causing fear of nuclear war with Russia and Germany split in two by the Berlin Wall, bands like Xmal Deutchland, Bauhaus, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Joy Division and The Cure were making cathartic sounds to remind the moon-tanned loners and introverts they weren’t alone. There’s an excellent primer on German post-punk HERE. The sound built on what had come before in the world of rock, jazz, blues and more, utilizing whatever gear could be afforded, crafting creepy, angry and beautiful music out of voice, guitar, drum machines and an audacious desire to sound like nothing that had come before.
Second Still started after Ryan Walker (guitar) and Alex Hartman (bass) met a few years back and the duo began recording instrumental demos. In 2014, the duo moved to Los Angeles and met singer Suki San and the band was born. In 2016 they released Early Forms, a 4-song EP of which three are included on their debut S/T full-length.
Recover begins with an almost metronomic drum beat and throaty guitars, Alex Hartman’s bass and the beat driving into your being. Ryan Walker glides around the rhythm with his guitar work, exploring the empty spaces. Then Suki San enters, hushed and mysterious as the rhythm takes on a looser flow. Walker’s guitar takes on various voices of its own, and the guitar freak-out at the end is one of many on the album, an anti-solo as minimalist as it is thrilling.
Hartman’s forceful bass leads the way on Try Not To Hide, the song noisy and anxious, Walker flittering up and about. By now you get Second Still’s Modus Operandi, while also beginning to pick up on the richness of their limited color palette. The ending of Try Not to Hide again thrills with a metallic shriek of guitars.
Sleep is dangerously alluring, as Suki San’s vocals become slightly more prominent, more melodic and throaty. Walker’s guitars are fuller and minor chord pretty, he and Hartman changing up their playing for something more powerful and rocking. The digital hi-hat cymbals offset the cavernous space. You’ll find yourself unable to stop doing the noodle dance.
You Two So Alike is creepy and kooky, bouyed by a faster bouncy beat and playful call and response guitars and the occasional “wooh!”
Second Still’s debut album closes with Judgment, Suki San speak-singing through an insistent bass rumble and drum beat, Walker layering higher and lower guitar parts, leading the way for San to almost growl. “I’m just another loser”. Creating tension with repetition, San sings enigmatically “I see something in your ways/ Don’t get carried away”, Walker digs into his guitar for another emotional freak-out, leaving the listener wanting more.
(Review by Bret Miller)