Around since the mid-aughts, Tyvek has been dropping scuzzed-out, drone-punk singles for the last couple of years. An EP, Fast Metabolism came out on What’s Your Rupture in 2007, but this self-titled full-length is clearly intended to be the band’s first cohesive long-form statement. Its tunes rattle along on fiercely minimalist beats (the drummer stands, and plays only one tom), alternating between shout-or-drawl refrains of Mark E. Smith-like disclarity, and an occasional bout of transcending melody. Back down to a three-piece – Kevin Boyer on guitar, Matt Z on drums and Larry on bass – the band is augmented on this record with Damon from Puffy Areolas, whose free-form guitar experiments give Tyvek’s clattery, nervy, boxed in sound the equivalent of an open window. Still, this is an anxious, fractured, highly intelligent sort of punk sound, guitar jangles pinging around inside claustrophobic beats, discordant phrases rising up out of the mix, then dropping back into it.
Some of this albums’ material will be familiar to long-time listeners – both “Summer Things” and “Duck Blinds”’ were released in alternate versions on 7” this year, “Frustration Rock” was on Summer Burns, and at least one version of “Buildings Burning” has been part of the band’s live set since 2007 or so. An indefinable mood of disquiet and festering decay ties the tracks together into an uneasy whole, and four nearly identical instrumental cuts (called, respectively “Sonora,” “Tecate,” “El Centro” and “Mexicali”) smooth transitions between songs. It is “Sonora,” for instance, that eases the segue from driving, pounding, guitar-crashing “Summer Things” and the jagged and gemlike pop of “Hey Una.” “Tecate” buffers the head-pounding, eccentrically tuned anxiety of “Frustration Rock” from the straight-up punk anthem “Stand and Fight.”
Kevin Boyer says that Tyvek (named for the water-proof material used in new home construction) was moved by Detroit’s mortgage-meltdown depression as they recorded this album. On one level, they were trying to capture the town’s sense of vast, desolate space, as homes turned to vacant lots and urban landscapes took on a tangled, weedy aura. The two “Burning Buildings” cuts deal with this imagery most directly – the first droned-out and hopeless, the second (the “re-edit”) manic and energetic, but just as bleak in its way. It’s all a question of what you do after you “send the money to the IRS” – sink into a deep funk or run around with your hair on fire?
There’s a weird intensity to even the most slacked-out of these songs, a sense of impending doom even as singer Boyer mouths tuneless “la la las” and the bass and drums build underneath. Confined rhythms – the sing-song beat of penultimate cut “What To Do” for instance – imply a need to escape. Drawling mantras, repeated endlessly, point toward a willingness to tune out. But every once in a while, usually through some sort of guitar experiment, the boxy confines of these songs open out into something spacious and really beautiful. It happens with the Doppler-whining flange late in “What To Do,” and with the layers of feedback in the lovely, wistful “Hey Una.” It’s part of this band’s charm that they can remind you of the Fall, the Urinals, Volcano Suns, the Observers and Television Personalities, all within five minutes.