Bang Bangz: More Ghostly Wails and Synths On Red City
Bang Bangz remains one of the best things about the Houston music scene. The trio of Mario Rodriguez, Elizabeth Salazar, and Vik Montemayor specializes in an ambient, repetitious, synth-driven kind of indie music that is really quite spellbinding. In particular, Salazar and Rodriguez's vocals cut through the binary wall of sound like a modernist version of Flowers and Machines.
Photo by Anthony Rathbun
Red City is the trio's first full-length release, coming a year after their stellar self-titled EP. At the time you could clearly feel the band looking for its identity apart from Rodriguez's work with Tax the Wolf, but warming to their potential as a new direction.
From the outset, Red City shows some pretty powerful evolution. It's far smoother, and Rodriguez appears to have really buckled down his production skills in crafting it.
If Bang Bangz the EP had any real flaw, it was a tendency to edge slightly into the reds on Salazar's high notes or drop Montemayor's drums under a crashing keyboard line. This time, he's got it 100 percent right.
"Voltron" opens the record very strongly, with a preamble that calls to mind Harbinger, the impossibly brilliant EP by Bang Bangz's occasional stagemates from Austin, Clouds Are Ghosts. In fact, you can hear a definite influence stemming straight from Harbinger in the opener's preamble, and the wailing choruses that echo Harbinger's "Canvas."
Where it sets itself apart, though, and what seems to be a recurring theme of the album lyrically is a strange and desperate hopelessness. I don't know what the connection is between giant anime robots and clear allusions to dying far away and alone, but whatever it is, it forms the backbone of Red City.
It doesn't get any happier with "Last Day on Earth," which is the first time on the album Rodriguez gets into the game as a vocalist. He and Salazar work very well in complementing each other across vocal lines, with Rodriguez typically taking a more conversational tone opposite Salazar's choir approach.
One of the more interesting things Bang Bangz does is use a constant repetition of lyrics in a kind of meditative, chanting mantra. When you combine it with the beepier, video-game aspect of Salazar's synth lines this time around, it feels kind of like leveling up aurally.
As you allow these motifs and memes to ricochet back and forth through your attention span like two equally skilled computers playing Pong, it has a definitely unsettling effect on the subconscious.
"Silence and violence even at the end of the line," mutters Rodriguez, slightly changing a few words with every utterance. It gets to you.