OTR is reminiscent of another band that’s remembered as “important,” but to which few people listen: ’80s post-punkers the Birthday Party. Part of the No Wave movement—a response to New Wave featuring atonal music and nihilistic lyrics—the Birthday Party’s brash sound, and frontman Nick Cave’s uninhibited vocals, made for more of a cacophony than a symphony. But the Aussie outfit’s music was exciting because it felt real—as if the members poured themselves into their instruments just as Cave poured his heart out onstage. Old Time Relijun is uncomfortable and appealing in a similarly crude way.
That’s not to say just anyone should run out and buy Catharsis in Crisis —which, combined with 2004’s Lost Light and 2005’s 2012 , makes up OTR’s Lost Light Trilogy . But the echoing guitars of “Dark Matter” or de Dionyso’s shaky vocals on “Akavishim” rival the boldness of any track on the Birthday Party’s Prayer on Fire , which is why it deserves a listen. And by the third time through, OTR’s musical puzzle starts to fall into place. The jazzy wailing of the horns match up with de Dionyso’s gravelly cries on “In the Crown of Lost Light”; the clever lyrics about all things mythological in “Daemon Meeting” become less thrashy and more catchy.
Carthasis in Crisis manages to be challenging without digressing into nonsense. There’s a difference between being just plain bad (as in unskilled) and having little concern for the conventions of modern music: OTR (and Nick Cave, for that matter) falls into the latter category. De Dionyso and company definitely know how to play—but they also know better than to be boring.
Old Time Relijun celebrates the release of Catharsis in Crisis Wednesday, Sept. 26, with Cex Fucx and Bryce Panic at the Artistery. 7 pm. $6 ($12 includes CD or LP). All ages. Catharsis in Crisis comes out Tuesday, Oct. 9.