The Eerie Opera of Taiwan Housing Project
Taiwan Housing Project are the project formed by Kilynn Lunsford of Little Claw and Mark Feehan of Harry Pussy. Both of these groups are experimental noise rock with lo-fi elements in the production. Taiwan Housing Project are no different from these in that aspect. They claim to be the illegal deviation from the standard indie rock formula, which they say on the their Facebook page is part of a “gulag” of conformity. These “rule breakers” have released their debut LP, Veblen Death Mask, from the appropriately named Kill Rock Stars record label.
This is one of the most haunting and unsettling records of 2017, thus far. It is a twisted nightmare of noise that will leave one shaken after a listen. The powerful voice of Kilynn Lunsford mixes with the harsh sounds of the instrumentals like a disturbing funhouse in which a child gets lost and cannot find the emergency exit. This is meant in a positive way, as Lunsford’s high-pitched shouts are really emphasized on tracks like the opening one, “Salt Sugar Fire,” and “Subterranean Pedigree.” She sounds as if Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney got a hold of the drugs Dumbo took when the pink elephants were on parade. The violating scream of Lunsford’s vocals add to the sinister attitude of the album.
Ultimately, though, the record is uncomfortable. The track “Luminous Oblong Blur” begins with the screeching of a saxophone and violin that sounds more like a dying elephant than your typical art rock song. The album can become cringeworthy for the listener, cringeworthy, as in making one extremely distressed while listening. This, however, is what Taiwan Housing Project clearly want to achieve with their music, as they will not be associated with the gulag of indie rock.
A track like “Multidimensional Spectrum” is an outlier on Veblen Death Mask in terms of its catchiness. The overall heart of the record is still here with the harsh noise, but the guitar riff blasted after the chorus, along with the saxophone that follows the same rhythm, is a foot-stomping combination. With a saxophone solo and quality vocals, this is a gem of a track.
“Ideal Body Alignment” starts with a ripping riff where Lunsford, who also plays guitar, strums up and down the guitar neck. Her vocals screech ominous lyrics like, “Haphazard decorum asphyxiation caused a deviation from the vocation of convenience.” These complex and underlying words are a trend throughout the entirety of Veblen Death Mask.
The saxophone, played by Kevin Nickles, is an aspect of this record that is very unique, especially for this experimental genre. A song like “d’Arc Eruptions” uses the saxophone as a haunting instrument that brings mental scrutiny upon the listener. It reverberates like the psychedelic tunnel scene in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and makes the listener feel just as uncomfortable; yet the saxophone itself gives the overall aesthetic of the album its characteristics.
Veblen Death Mask is not a record for everyone, but that is how Taiwan Housing Project like it. It’s harsh, in-your-face and very experimental. This spooky debut LP is one of the most intense listens of 2017 and anyone who enjoys something very different and offbeat should give it a spin.