“Absence. This is a poignant title for an album that's being released after the dissolution of the band that made it. The group in question formed in Perth, Western Australia, while the members were still in high school. They made their name in their hometown, but moved to Britain a few years ago to brave a bigger market, as a number of Aussie bands have done before them. They wound up split in two, the rhythm section in Iceland, the guitarists/vocalists/other-stuffists in Britain, everyone working day jobs to keep the band alive. From the sound of it, somewhere in the making of their third album, the band seems to have realized it would be the last. On Absence, Snowman is already a ghost.
Their second album, 2008's The Horse, the Rat and the Swan, was a fiercely unique, grotesque and aggressive album, twisting surf, electro, punk, and metal into a visceral, raw sound that was by turns punishing and gorgeous. Absence works off that synthesis to much different ends, preserving the aggressive energy and gut-punch impact of its predecessor while largely dropping that album's musical directness. Here, the surf guitars are held mostly in check, a voice is never raised in anger or torment, and the focus is on pillow-y harmony vocals and ethereal texture. And with the change, the band has somehow made an album that's even more unsettling, dark, and downright frightening than what came before it.
Three members of the band– guitarists Joe McKee and Andy Citawarman, and bassist Olga Hermaniussen– sing, and the way they've recorded their vocals, they bleed into a haunted wash where the words become less important than the sounds. You can catch phrases here and there– McKee intoning, “half awake/half asleep,” on “A Vanishing Act”, for instance– but it seems almost beside the point to try and draw out lyrics from this music. There is a primordial force behind the songs that's much more important. It's what makes the hair-raising repetition of the word “hyena” on “Hyena” so effective. It's just a word for an animal, repeated over and over, but the way they surround it with terse guitar and synth phrases, poltergeist drumming, and an unresolved chord sequence packs it with icy menace. This hyena isn't taking a bath under a tree– it's coming for you, and you can practically feel its breath on your neck during the buildup two minutes in.
The band has made an especially impressive trick out of working similar sounds for different overall effect on this album. Ross DiBlasio's drums are often the change agent– they might add nothing more than a time-keeping thump and click on one song, and on the next they're crashing through the more ambient sounds like a hammer through glass, ratcheting up the anxiety rather than pushing the beat. It really is too bad that this will be the band's final release, because Snowman had firmly established themselves as a force to be reckoned with.”
By Joe Tangari; May 3, 2011 – PITCHFORK
released October 9, 2015
Engineer – Aaron Cupples
Mastered By – Simon Struthers
Mixed By – Aaron Cupples
Producer – Aaron Cupples, Snowman
Written By – Snowman