The L-Shaped Man

Written by: LF on 24/12/2015 16:10:06

The famous hardcore punk band Ceremony from Rohnert Park, California, released a new album this year that brings their previous and gradual change in sound even further. Completing the turn to fuzzier, guitar-driven post-punk that was also underway on their previous record "Zoo", the band seem to have now fully embraced their love for acts like The Cure or Joy Division. This might not come as such a huge surprise for fans who know that Ceremony in fact named themselves after a song by Joy Division but still there is a long way from the hardcore of their days under the name Violent World to this much softer emulation of a pre-hardcore sound. What this means though is that Ceremony have turned out an atmospheric bunch of songs that make up an album with an admittedly haunting sound that we have already seen working as a good supplement in a live situation (at this year’s Groezrock festival) to their earlier more hard-hitting material.

Most importantly, the songs here do not feel forced and the band executes the change in style very convincingly across the record. It has a very distinct dark vibe to it that binds it together from start to finish, and which establishes itself in the space between the continuous background ambience and the clear piano notes of the slower intro track, "Hibernation". As "Exit Fears" takes over with a firm rhythm and echoing, gloomy guitars, a particular kind of lazy or apathetic energy that runs through the album mixes in with it, not least communicated to us through the somewhat simple singing by vocalist Ross Farrar. His voice wavers so it does not always feel like he hits the notes spot on but even when he borders on a spoken word style, it sounds surprisingly melodic. The repeated words here of "The pain will leave in the night / No one would find out" make their way instantly inside your mind and as the song just sort of runs out without a marked ending, we get a sense of trying to make our way through a series of foggy and chilling night-scenes. This sense of mystique and evading shadows never really loosens its grip again before the end of the album, although many songs are upbeat and do not have as melancholic a sound as these first ones.

While several of the later songs have their own little recognizable details, the only song that truly makes an impression and stands apart from the rest is the surprisingly dynamic "Your Life In France". Moving ever forward, the song has a refreshing use of simultaneous distinctive guitar patterns towards the end where it changes character as Farrar repeats certain lyrics over and over and the song dares to fill out a bigger atmospheric space than any of the other songs here. The lyrics oftentimes circle around inevitabilities and the songs that follow across the middle of the record, most explicitly "The Separation" and "The Pattern", express this by also being very repetitive with their choruses consisting of a single line ("Can you measure the loss?" and "It’s happening again" respectively). These songs carry a similar playful musical appeal to "Your Life In France" and are both catchy, but they play more like curiosities or energetic interludes through this repetitive form.

Thus, the album loses some of its initial appeal the more times you spin it in its entirety. The sound it brings forward is captivating to begin with, but it becomes too much of the same with not enough variation as the album progresses. Still, there is something to be said for the very cohesive listen "The L-Shaped Man" also is, in part exactly due to this dominating vibe that binds it all together. As such, the album is enjoyable for any fan of this kind of punk sound, who wants to hear a contemporary, somewhat paradoxically post-punk take on the "original" sound from a band that certainly knows what they are doing with it and balance their influences very well.


Download: Your Life In France, Exit Fears, The Pattern
For The Fans Of: Joy Division, Modern Life Is War, Fucked Up, The Cure, Wire
Listen: facebook.com/ceremony

Release date 18.05.2015
Matador Records

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