Parquet Courts hasn’t taken much of a break between albums, dropping a hefty song pool in 2014 that totaled 25 tracks for Sunbathing Animal and Content Nausea. While these discs offer lyric-ed tunes amidst instrumental pieces, the most recent album is almost entirely instrumental, save for the opening track, which features some unintelligible words.
The November 2015 release, Monastic Living, ranges from some punk rock themes to experimental noise segments, leaning heavily on the latter to create an uncomfortable project under a religious moniker. Is it enlightenment and spiritual healing or a slowly unhinging transformation? The overall atmosphere is on the borderline of confined and deranged with an unsettling anxiety that permeates and breaks down.
“No! No! No!” starts out familiar with a steady drumbeat before punked-out vocals and guitar enter in hazy staccato blips. The 1:12-length intro track leads into guitar and bass-driven “Monastic Living I,” which starts with a repetitive segment that takes up the first two minutes. The melody deviates at that point with some more piercing and rolling intervals that register high on the agitation scale. At one point, the lead guitar separates into some improvised wails with the rhythmic undercurrent buzzing on like a mosquito in your ear. The instrumental saga winds down with static fuzz underneath an escalating bug buzz that speeds into a slowly building terror. The apprehension has hit the wall to start off the disc.
“Elegy of Colonial Suffering” continues the noise blaze in a series of discordant guitar reverberations and heavy strums. Your eardrums will suffer. “Frog Pond Plop” enters in much the same manner, like an entire pool of furious, swarming mosquitoes. The track leaves no white space; the swarm continues like an unremitting, excruciating past yet doesn’t vary in texture or volume. It’s enough to drive you mad. “Vow of Silence” is a conglomeration of harsh noises with unsteady breaks as if the silence is trying to slice through but never can. The permanent organ underlay hums throughout, while an unpleasant static cuts in like your car radio when you’re driving by cell towers.
“Monastic Living II” arrives with some sonic relief. There’s space between notes, allowing room to breathe and think…that is until patterned electronic blips begin to fill in the emptiness along with an underlying wooly guitar sound until the rhythm breaks apart. “Alms for the Poor” is more in-the-lines rock and roll with a powerful bass lead, two definitive structured guitar lines, and a basic drumbeat. It colors a little outside those lines with some discordant strums and a beepy fade at the end.
“Poverty and Obedience” mashes together an angelic reverence with a frustrating drone and incessant tone, before “Prison Conversion” ends thing with some sensual guitar and plenty of sonic space to start with before blossoming into scratchy chords, wavering screeches, and echo wails. The body is turning into the spirit but not without a fight. The conversion takes place in the following static, which fuzzes into an agonizing siren and gains momentum in the last minute before cutting off before enlightenment is reached.