Music Reviews

posted: July 14, 2017

Dasher Sodium

Jagjaguwar, LP or CD

Dasher leader Kylee Kimbrough said in a recent interview that one of her favorite things about her time spent living in Bloomington, Indiana, relates to the fact that most of the houses in the city have basements. The Atlanta native’s love of the subterranean should be relatively apparent after one spends a few moments with Sodium, the debut from her all-loud, all-the-time punk outfit.

The opening “We Know So” launches with the kind of industrial-sounding wailing one would expect to hear on the decks of a shipping barge. A crush of rhythms and an aggressively dominant rush of guitars follow. And that says nothing of Kimbrough’s vocals—the sort that almost makes your voice hoarse just by listening to them. One immediately may feel sorry for Kimbrough’s neighbors. The singer/drummer doesn’t need a basement to contain this noise; she needs a bunker.

Sodium proves an old punk-rock adage: furiously passionate frustration never goes out of style. Offering 11 songs in about 30 minutes, Sodium speeds by and requires close listening to get a grapple on Kimbrough’s personal, stream-of-conscious-like lyrics. She claims many chronicle her experience living with a then-undiagnosed case of high-functioning autism.

Throughout, the quartet seems more intent on capturing a frantic, feverish emotional state over anything resembling clear communication. Often, you can only pick up slivers of Kimbrough’s verses. At times, they’re existential (“I see the eyes in the back of my head and I know it’s not me,” she growls on “Go Rambo”), and at other moments, she hits more directly, upping the anxiety factor by delivering the lines like she’s pulling out her hair: “Don’t you. Know that. I still. Love you,” she sings on “Eye See,” slicing a sentence into panicked fragments.

The music comes across as hard rock that feels just out off center, the sonic equivalent of straining to see the tiny lines of random text on an eye exam chart. Such effect is carried out via the echo-like effects placed on Kimbrough’s delivery, which allow the words to essentially hover over the brash, distorted guitars of Steve Garcia and Derek McCain. As a reference point, think of early Hole, but with more of a machine-like, thrashy presence.

But don’t always expect to know where to focus. Varying the pace is one of Dasher’s strengths. “Soviet” opens with the sound of what could be a jet powering down, only to pick back up again with Kimbrough’s accelerating drums. Rhythms work like blades burrowing into thick icebergs. Aptly, the guitars feel wickedly cold on “Teeth,” a song that, before it comes to a sludgy end, hits multiple highs and lows while jerking forward and back without warning. “Trespass” gets fancy around Gary Magilla’s cavernous bass, with Kimbrough channeling her inner dragon and letting Garcia and McCain doodle at will.

By contrast, “Resume” goes old school, beginning with a straightforward drive sure to please anyone with a leather jacket full of patches nodding to late-70s New York and London bands. But it gets louder, bolder, and hazier as it unfolds, and eventually, Kimbrough’s indecipherable vocals become a raspy, reverberating instrument. You may not know what, precisely, the song has to do with a resume, but you will likely want to get out of the way. Or turn it up.

–Todd Martens