The artwork for Guider, the second album from Chicago’s Disappears, opts for a minimal aesthetic: the album’s title rendered in black text, atop a white background. A similar approach was used for last year’s Lux (albeit one with the color scheme reversed.) Search out the name of the band with an eye toward seeing who plays what and you’re likely to encounter a dearth of information. Listen to Guider‘s title track, in which the group finds a balance between the airy explorations of onetime labelmates Deerhunter and the currently-popular school of fuzzed-out post-Jesus and Mary Chain garage punk, and you’ll hear the title repeated over and over in the lyrics. After a while, you might begin to think that the band’s name also represents a statement of purpose, of an artist putting their music at the forefront and (literally) disappearing into their work.
As with the tile track, the lyrics on Guider are terse (and are tersely delivered); as with their music, repetition of phrases is a key component. Much of what lends the album distinction is the tension created between the band’s bold, confident projections and the more delicate core at their center. At times, that tension can be disorienting — the album is done in just over half an hour, with half of that time occupied by the rhythmic workout of “Revisiting.” And yet, for all of the deep-focus guitars and booming basslines heard here, there’s something almost ephemeral about Guider. While a Krautrock influence looms large over “Revisiting,” for instance, there’s also space given to allow the notes to drift off; a steadiness in constant danger of being washed away. Appropriately enough, this comes to a head in “Superstition,” which closes the album, and finds the steady basslines slowly ebbing away, an evocation of evaporation.
There’s another divide at work in Disappears’ music, a give-and-take between the band’s fondness for wit and the more visceral elements of its sound. This is, fundamentally, bold and booming rock music: it hums and spikes and makes itself heard. At the same time, the band’s aesthetics do nod in the direction of gameplaying: the no-frills, text-heavy design of the album covers; a mention in the promotional materials that Guider was recorded over the master tapes for Lux. And thus, the tension between the immediacy of the rock band and the alternate pleasures (and drawbacks) of the more conceptual project.
Each one has its pros and cons, but finding a way to preserve that balance may prove difficult as the group moves forward. If Disappears does decide to proceed further along the conceptual road, one hopes that they won’t lose sight of their own command of rock’s fundamentals.