A mostly successful collection of noisy collaborations
Los Angeles-based noise rock band HEALTH is back with DISCO4 :: PART I. The project compiles a vast array of new artistic interactions between HEALTH’s usual stylistic tendencies and the different perspectives of an incredibly diverse collaborative roster. Some of the most notable guest appearances include Xiu Xiu, JPEGMAFIA, Soccer Mommy, Ghostemane, 100 Gecs and many more. In fact, the band brings in an additional collaborator on literally every song besides the intro. For the most part, these adventurous 12 tracks land quite well, and the few outliers don’t detract too much. Possibly most important of all though, the many collaborators generally come through in a major way, and the many diverse styles and collaborative efforts make for an incredibly exciting listen.
The project begins with “CYBERPUNK 220.127.116.11.,” the sole feature-less effort on the entire album. As one could’ve probably guessed, this track feels the most like it could end up on a regular HEALTH album. The track is built on gorgeous melodies, velvety vocals and an all-consuming sense of foreboding primarily developed in the darkly vague lyrics. Despite this song’s position in the tracklist, the walls are already closing in. Soon after is “POWER FANTASY,” where experimental pop vanguard 100 Gecs take the wheel. While the track feels patently Dylan Brady-ish, HEALTH still make their mark, and these clashing worlds (that actually make sense together when one thinks about it) result in an incredibly entertaining three minutes.
“JUDGEMENT NIGHT” is a similar story, where underground rapper Ghostemane steals the track with a set of flows that complement HEALTH’s extreme production beautifully. The interplay between Ghostemane’s screams and HEALTH vocalist Jake Duzsik’s smoother voice actually works quite well. As the project continues, the band dips their toes into Youth Code’s EBM on “INNOCENCE,” Full of Hell’s grind core on “FULL OF HEALTH” and JPEGMAFIA’s brand of glitchy raps on “HATE YOU.” These collaborative experiments are far from disappointing; if people are already a fan of HEALTH and their collaborators, expect nothing but fun. HEALTH’s supreme versatility is something to behold.
The album’s conclusion houses a couple more highlights: “MASS GRAVE” with Soccer Mommy and “DELICIOUS APE” with Xiu Xiu. Both tracks represent the best of HEALTH’s efforts to synthesize style, rather than letting themselves get overtaken by the collaborator, or the other way around. On “MASS GRAVE,” Sophia Allison manages to create a bittersweet beauty by placing her lovely voice squarely in the center of HEALTH’s noisy electronics, and on “DELICIOUS APE,” Xiu Xiu weaves their art rock DNA into HEALTH’s most reserved production efforts to create a chilling portrait of paranoia and loss.
Some of the collaborations, like “BODY/PRISON” with Perturbator, “COLORS” with The Soft Moon and “HARD TO BE A GOD” with NOLIFE (to a lesser degree) unfortunately just don’t make as strong of an impression, and show HEALTH and their collaborators operating at a lower level than usual. As mentioned earlier, this doesn’t present a huge roadblock in the overall quality of the project, since these moments are the outlier.
Any project like what HEALTH have attempted on DISCO4 :: PART I is inherently exciting. A tracklist like this one should provoke nothing but excitement, curiosity and hope. It’s also worth nothing that while there’s no real throughline, and this is more of a compilation effort than a typical studio album, the whole unit is still fairly satisfying. On this album, HEALTH managed to work in a wide variety of styles, and successfully execute on their ambitions in most of these adventures. It’s hard to imagine a better outcome on such an album.