Wading through familiar waters
Bands that operate in the most experimental spaces tend to be eclectic in their sound. In this fashion, The Body is no different from their contemporaries. With no less than seven projects since 2017, the band has managed to stay startlingly fresh despite their increased output. Even their collaborative efforts, which benefit from having other musicians help shake up the sound, show a consistent and meaningful evolution towards something new and interesting. In a sense, I’ve Seen All I Need to See feels like the first time we’ve seen The Body hold still for a moment. But even when they hold still, The Body still demands to be met on their own terms.
This album refuses to fully open up to a casual one-time listen. This is made clear from the first minute of the opening track, “A Lament,” which takes the distorted, noisy sound for which The Body is so beloved and cranks it high enough that one might fear for the health of their speakers. At first, it feels a bit gimmicky. People have all heard The Body reach for “out there” sounds before, and a heavily distorted noise wall isn’t really all that out there compared to what they’ve delivered on tracks like “Master’s Story” or “Hallow / Hollow,” but digging into the sound you’ll find textures that shouldn’t be possible. These sounds burst in and out of tracks like gunfire and are pushed to their limits in almost every track, but in surprising and distinct ways.
Of all the tracks on this record, the two that take distortion to its absolute limit are “Tied Up and Locked In” and “Eschatological Imperative.” The former takes it straight across the plate. Volume and sound density are pushed to the maximum, morphing the track into an earthquake-damaged city, alight with flames and belching smoke from sundered earth. The latter track employs much more production trickery than the former. Distorted synths grow angry through repetition and warping. The Body swirls these sounds around listener’s heads until they grow dizzy and nauseous. On top of that, Chip King’s shrieks are especially potent on this track, which only exacerbates the roiling sense of unease the track creates.
In an unexpected turn, The Body allows the listener to rest a bit during the next two tracks, “A Pain of Knowing” and “The City Is Shelled.” While the listening experience is nowhere as demanding as the next few tracks, these are still essential songs. Of the two, “The City Is Shelled” incorporates some of the group’s most innovative production work to date. Each note rings out with a piercing clarity that one typically finds hidden far away from anything The Body touches.
For as essential as those tracks are, even they pale in comparison to the doomed stutter of “They Are Coming.” This skin-crawler kicks off with a bang but quickly grinds to a droning halt. It’s a pattern that repeats often throughout the song, but never in exactly the same manner or with the same cadence. Much like a track from noise artist knifedoutofexistence, it relies on a technological distortion of an already distorted sound to create something truly inhuman and fully divorced from the expected aural range of nature.
At the close, the album hearkens back to the earlier days of noise, and in a way, the earlier days of The Body. Jazzy drum fills populate “Path of Failure” while a rattling helicopter warble of a synth undulates its writhing mess all over the panning shrieks of Chip King. Each track celebrates, or perhaps laments, the old, while exploring how their newfound abilities have allowed them to recontextualize their earlier attempts at similar material. It’s a thought experiment people should all be happy to witness.
To some small degree, I’ve Seen All I Need to See feels as though people are wading into familiar waters. Unlike many albums from The Body, it doesn’t readily toss out its former work in the pursuit of something newer and more unsettling. Instead, this record is the culmination of all that came before it, the pinnacle of a pyramid that sucks in all light. This is a damned, doomed and agonizing piece of music, and people should all be content to let it soundtrack their ever-present demise.