Disclaimer: I am friends with one of the members of Ithaca. But don’t let that put you off. They’re awesome. Buy the E.P.
Having enjoyed Ithaca’s first E.P Narrow The Way, with its balance of dissonance, melody and strong songwriting, I’ve been looking forward to their next recording for a while now. Recorded at Nø Studio, their second E.P, Trespassers, is available as a download or on 7″ vinyl.
This is not a fun or even a cathartic listen; it grips, it screams, screws its face up, grits its teeth, places its head in its hands and rocks in corner of the room. Ithaca have gone for intensity over expansion, and it has resulted in four very angry, pessimistic songs. Trespassers is faster, more piercing and skronk–heavy (that’s a word, right?) than Narrow The Way. It is music generated by and made for pain, the vocals raw like the result of an overheated shouting match. Despite the thick, choppy riffs, this is music about fragility, and is sonically painful as its lyrical pessimism, Life Lost finishing on ‘There’s nothing left to lose in life/Because life is lost on me’.
Opening track Otherworldly starts at thrash pace, halting into a single guitar before chiming arpeggios (it’s early days, but I’d say that’s one of Ithaca’s signatures), changes in pace and touches of dissonance. The intro to Life Lost flips between minor, major, hard, soft, fast, slow, silent and 10,000 revs, before an off–kilter breakdown at 1.15. Ithaca’s ability to completely wrongfoot with unconventional songwriting is one of the things that keeps them on repeat, like the lovely, Sikth–esque bursts of wriggling lead guitar in Otherworldly at 1.06 and Wither & Wane at 1.15, or cleaning up all of a sudden, like Lifelost at 2.14 and Wither & Wane at 2.00. Towards the end of closing track Trespassers a viola (I think) weaves in, a touch of mellowness, quickly sandblasted by ugly, shrieking feedback, then by the best riff on the E.P, a massive, vibrato–heavy guitar chug.
After a while, eardrums can become calloused to this sort of music (or ‘noise’ as you’ve probably been told several times), becoming immune to music that most people consider to be a sonic extremity, no matter how confrontational, abrasive or misanthropic it tries to be or is described as. With Trespassers, Ithaca get right underneath these callouses, right to where it hurts.