Unsteady throbs emanate through machine-like soundtracking, dense centres are slashed at by the elements that surround them, and the sound of a bottomless abyss is evoked: this is the unmistakable sound of apocalyptic synth-punk trio M.O.B. Their first record follows two years of live shows around Sydney that seem to empty their audience of all emotion and energy, with only their infamous cover of Q. Lazzarus’s [?Goodbye Horses?](https://www.youtube.com/watch’v=XDVS303kQ) being met with anything but blank faces and subtle body movements. Their record – which plays out almost like an aural interpretation of a seedy future – is similarly evocative; it could change the atmosphere of any room with stunning rapidity.
M.O.B. create these ominous sensations via Al Haddock’s (Whores) metallic guitar lines weaving through the drum machines and synths of Yuta Matsumura ([Oily Boys](/articles/4614034), Orion), all backed by the industrialised low-end of Laurence Williams? distorted violin. While there’s a blatant confrontation inherent in M.O.B.?s other projects that’s not lost on anybody who has seen them in a live setting, on record M.O.B. feel every part as intimidating, though it’s much more subtle. Haddock’s combination of jacked-up pedals repeat quickly out of recognition, the drum machine beats get lost in their own reverb, and one of Matsumura or Haddock will promptly howl through this disaffecting combination of sounds. Anything that appears initially welcoming is eventually distorted.
Like their often dispiriting live show, there’s little to respond to on a natural or typical level on this LP. Opening the record with the torque-heavy ?Dante (F.T.P)? – four minutes of slow, emotionless grinding with no resolution – is essentially preparation for the album’s entirety. Even the (relative) highs of ?88 Miles? or ?City Circle? are unforgivingly punishing; there are no answers to be found here. M.O.B. sounds dead and dispassionate and ultimately makes me feel how it sounds: as cold and empty as a worn-out husk.
There’s also a lot of imagery here, and the record is rife with snatched iconography that clashes jarringly with hints of normality. The dystopian ?MANZAC Capture (Man Capsules)?, for example, is followed immediately by ?City Circle?, placing the sci-fi symbolism of entrapped man next to a segment of the Sydney rail network. Meanwhile, something familiar like the club-esque drum machine run of ?Australiens? or the synth melody of ?Glass Eye? will be promptly shaded by blurring guitar lines or howling vocals. M.O.B., then, play out as fetishists, strip-mining sci-fi and horror imagery to create alien evocations of dankness and claustrophobia. Here, the walls close in perversely slowly.
M.O.B.* is a record that feels like it materialised from a vacuum; it’s a rare discovery. Often it sounds like nothing that has come before it, and while it does occasionally retain shapes that feel familiar, I couldn’t begin (nor would I be willing) to place it in context with anything else. Like the alien sounds and imagery the band aim to convey, *M.O.B. feels like it came from somewhere else.