K-Holes are intravenous catatonia for gutter junkies, glam goths and the nocturnal. Their name is derived from the crucial point of a ketamine-induced high that produces feelings of disassociation and schizophrenia. The appropriately titled Dismania is more complex than their debut and almost unrelentingly macabre in its dissection of the New York City underworld. A melee of brooding guitars, saxophone and exploding cymbals helps spawn a sound the Toxic Avenger could be proud of.
“Child” opens the album with a battlefield drum beat and the No Wave howl of Vashti Windish. Zumi Rosaw’s squealing saxophone begs comparisons to Teenage Jesus & the Jerks. K-Holes are definitely grounded in late 70s New York and the arty rejection of the way punk was going at the time. “Rats” features singer-guitarist Jack Hines (formerly Black Lips) at his shredding best as the song builds into a screeching anthem for the angst-ridden. As on “Rats,” “Frozen Stiff” is more of Hines’ snarl with a great sweeping sax riff that softens the texture of the track pleasantly. There are moments of Idiot-period Iggy when Hines reverts back to his icy monotone and sings “don’t wanna have anxiety no more, tired of sleepin’ on the bedroom floor with my hands tied behind my back”.
Just when the pace of the album becomes wearisome, K-Holes throw a line out with a solemn dirge like “Window in the Wall.” Soft maracas and murky surf drones play to a tragic saxophone. The mood is perhaps best summed up by Sebastian Mlynarsky’s music video featuring a love-struck couple’s grim descent into the world of junkies and scoring. “Night Shifter” and “Mosquito” jump right back to the skronky jazz punk that could only be made in New York.
For all the doom and dreariness Dismania projects, the track arrangement is never so much that it becomes unlistenable. K-Holes have a supreme understanding of mood manipulation and they pepper the album with songs that allow for a necessary rest on the eardrums. After the onslaught of “Dirty Hax,” “Numb” is a welcome reprise to Windish’s more mellow vocal sensibilities. Final track “Nothing New” seesaws back to Hines on vocals doing his best nihilist when he sings, “ceaseless girly chatter, we all think that it matters, what we do.” A fitting end to an album obsessed with sewer dregs and all matters of filth and misery.
It is amazing to think that K-Holes started as a gathering of friends already in bands who just wanted to play one show for fun. Their name also began as a joke, but in a New York minute they took their swamp stomp to Hozac and a year later to Hardly Art. Comparisons to artists like The Scientists, Lydia Lunch and Birthday Party are inevitable, but K-Holes make music with such menacing artistic precision that it deserves to stand on its own.
Words: Brian Noonan