10 Track, LP (2012, Battle/OSCL)
Related: Blacklevel Embassy.
Do you need the recitation, the history? About Blacklevel (that’s one word, and one word only) Embassy's resurgence, an ongoing event that seems surprising even to them? No, you don't, but you do need to have a listen to this, the result. Because this is a fucking great record.
Twenty seconds or so into the first track, ‘New Veteran’, clanging and random guitar noises resolve themselves into a stuttering-then-sprinting tune. Based on a solid groove, it takes shape on its own terms and drives forward all the time. It's compelling stuff and made me wonder briefly if maybe they had blown their best shot first.
But no. They follow it up with ‘Old Revolt’, which surges and swings with a simple bass figure and some light and fancy guitar work. But it’s all about the beat, and the space the vocals are given to work in. They keep it propulsive and energetic without crowding things, and that’s the way the rest of the album unfolds. They manage to be pleasingly heavy without going brutal or thuggish. There’s a kinda stoner feel to some of it, but overall it moves too fast and deliberately for that, with too much vibrancy for real slackers.
Listen to the punchy burst that marks the start of ‘Midnight Siblings’ – there’s not a kilojoule of wasted energy loitering in the grooves or a single wasted note to be heard. Nearly 10 years into their existence, the whole thing reeks of confidence and exudes the real authority of a band who have the standing to just be confident about what they do, with no need for any distracting frills. Some tracks seem to be about 60% silence, defined by long periods of sparse drumbeats and clipped vocals before getting back to full-on pummelling. That is not to say Blacklevel are without their lighter side – 'Weng Weng is a Secret Agent' appears to be a tribute to the Filipino ’80s action-movie star.
And finally, as the music finishes again, I sit here looking at a photo of them, Blacklevel Embassy, with their battered, spud-like heads and black denim jackets. In an ideal world, a band who returned from the grave, recorded an album this good and scored a series of high-profile supports with a band like Shellac should be able to write their own tickets from here on in. Because this is a fucking great record.
by Trevor Block