The Hamburg-based singer/guitarist Hans Frese spent his adolescent life playing in numerous hardcore and emo bands before surrendering his creativity to the throes of adulthood. By exchanging touring and songwriting for a daytime job, Frese doomed his musical ideas to gather dust, yet not for long. Despite his preoccupation with the adult life, the riffs and scraps of songs from his adolescence kept haunting Frese, so he finished writing these songs on a laptop in his bedroom and gathered a group of musicians from varying backgrounds to perform them live under the moniker of Entropy.
The album title ‘liminal’ refers to the initial stage of a process or a transition into a new process, hearkening back to those early days of Frese’s musical career, when many of the riffs appearing on this record have been composed. Liminal greets the listener with the a dark silhouette bearing the suggestion of a countenance painted in shades of black. A picture of anxiety that is often reflected in the lyrics, but which contradicts the undeniable freshness of the music which merges early nineties noise rock with early noughts indie and emo influences.
Typical throughout the whole album are double-layered vocal harmonies, fat bass tones and open chords embellished by melodic guitar leads, yet it is the subtle stylistic deviations from this formula that that makes Liminal keep the listeners attention. Lead single “Northern Line” combines layered vocals and melodic guitars with sludgy post-metal guitar riffing while the preceding “The Enemy Never Sleeps” plays with the loud-quiet dynamic typical for late 80s alternative rock and early 90s grunge. “Age of Anxiety” again is a straight up noise rock anthem with a surprising splash of early 00s post-rock thrown in for good measure.
As stated before, the lyrics on this record are a reflection of themes and issues that play a large role in late teenage and early adulthood. Frese switches back and forth between feelings of anxiety and careful optimism, pleading desperately to deliver him from his pessimism (“February 20, 1974”) the one moment, while the next sees him casually referencing drinking in San Francisco Bay (“Age of Anxiety”). The latter might seem awkward given the fact that this band is German and hints of Frese’s German accent subtly appear in the singing.
“Liminal creates a compelling experience of adolescent anxiety, contrasting it with music that successfully captures the euphoria of youth. “
Lyrically, Liminal is the strongest when it descends into the darker side of its subject matter, reaching a thematic climax on “Knausgardian” with a spoken word reading of Emily Dickinson’s “Adrift! A little boat adrift!” This poem tells the story of a little boat disappearing in the dark of evenfall while struggling against the mighty ocean. Sailors say it had sunk, while the angels say it “Retrimmed its masts — redecked its sails — And shot — exultant on!” Ultimately these two voices convey the same outcome from different perspectives (the earthlings say it perished, while the heavenly perspective is that it reached it goal) portraying the struggle against mental illness as a confusing, but ultimately futile battle.
As such Liminal creates a compelling experience of adolescent anxiety, contrasting it with music that successfully captures the euphoria of youth. Despite being stuck in the working-life for so long, Frese manages to convey the sentiments of his youth very well with these songs, creating a record that carries a universal and timeless quality. By tapping into music genres from different decades that all have deep connections to distinct cultural movements (most notably grunge and emo, but also noise rock and skater culture in the 90s), Liminal manages to be relevant for multiple generations of listeners.
Until here this review has paid a lot of attention to the contribution of the main-songwriter, and arguably this does no justice to the other members of the band. It must be mentioned that this four-piece plays together like an incredibly well-oiled machine (granted all members are seasoned musicians). Especially noteworthy is drummer Benjamin Koevener who carries this whole record with nothing but a two-piece drum kit (!) and his mere hands. Nevertheless, the fact remains that conceptually, as well as musically, Liminal is rooted in the life events and endeavours of Hans Frese and this raises the question of whether Entropy will be able to produce a record that will be as compelling as this debut. Even though only time will tell, and until then we have this great piece of German indie/noise rock for us to revel in.
This album is… **interesting.
Liminal will be released on August 21 through Crazysane Records. The album is available for pre-order in vinyl and CD formats via the Crazysane Records webshop.