Post-punk has a rich history of casting aspersions on the American dream. Rooted in the nihilistic bohemia of no wave, bands like Gang of Four and Magazine used the defiant spirit of punk to turn disco into something dark and existential, and used abrasion to urge listeners that placid domesticity is more of a fugue state than an actual dream.
Miss Rayon weaves together post-punk and no wave with a thread of uncertainty and dread. The band's debut LP, Eclipse, spends the bulk of its 37 minutes lurking in the darkness that creeps into the corners of every normie's fantasy of a calm and collected life.
While no wave was infamous for experiments with noise and dissonance, it also begat groups like Sonic Youth and Mission of Burma, whose accessible sounds left an obvious mark on Miss Rayon's frontman and guitarist, Eric Sabatino. Formerly a solo act, Sabatino enlisted a razor-sharp rhythm section—Jenny Logan of Deathlist on bass and Hannah Blilie of the Gossip on drums—to give Eclipse a danceable thrust that belies the morose subject matter of its songs.
Opener "Red Plumb" displays Sabatino's chops as a vocalist with an effortlessly cool delivery, but it's the call-and-response vocals from Logan and Blilie that truly bring the song to life. The result is a chilly ode to the futility of America's dismal state. But it's hard to feel let down while the nervous energy of Blilie's disco beats and Sabatino's spiky guitars poignantly prod you into action. Though the song reads like an exasperated sigh, it still suggests you're better off dancing while your upper half is fixated on a shrug.
Eclipse wastes no time in upping the ante on "Domestic Gesture," a brooding screed against monotony punctuated by knotty guitar licks that sound like an itch you can't scratch. Though he frontloads the record with a guitar-centric approach, Sabatino ends up backing away from his own instrument as quickly as he brings it to the fore—Miss Rayon isn't really a solo project anymore. Sabatino's fretwork aims for what Built to Spill may have sounded like had they signed to 4AD, but his confidence in the abilities of Logan and Blilie proves to be one of his strongest assets. On the title track, Blilie and Logan go it alone to stunning effect, while their alternate perspective on the jagged disco of "Every Man" feels essential to keeping the album balanced and whole.
The trio's rubric for success becomes apparent early on, but there's more than enough talent driving the LP's high points to ward off the sameness that plagues the vast majority of modern post-punk albums. If the future freaks you out, but you can't bring yourself to lie down and let it roll over you, Eclipse may be the perfect soundtrack for dancing off the angst.
SEE IT: Miss Rayon plays Black Water Bar, 835 NE Broadway, blackwaterpdx.com, on Saturday, Nov. 17. 8 pm. $7. All ages.