Add to Calendar
Ceremony’s lead guitarist Anthony Anzaldo doesn’t want to talk about the fact that his band has been around for over ten years. Or that they’ve drifted away from the hardcore genre that made them, or that they jumped ship from their long-time label, Matador Records, to join Relapse Records instead. Or that their sixth album will mark four years since the iconic punk band has released any new material. These things aren’t really important. What matters is that In the Spirit World Now is Ceremony’s most driving, intelligent collection of songs to date.
“We knew this had to be the best thing we have ever done,” admits Anzaldo. “We couldn’t come back after four years with a record that only had a few good songs.”
Produced by Will Yip (Title Fight, Circa Survive, Turnover) and mixed by engineer Ben Greenberg (The Men, Pharmakon, Hank Wood And The Hammerheads), In the Spirit World Now grows with each listen, balancing Yip’s pop sensibilities with Greenberg’s noise-punk influence through dramatic, shining synthesizer hooks and a mature vocal strategy. Drummer Jake Casarotti and bassist Justin Davis power through the 11-tracks as a strong yet sparse backbone that interlocks with guitarists Andy Nelson and Anzaldo to create a pop-centric, post-punk canvas for frontman Ross Farrar to expel the most vulnerable parts of himself. (And, thankfully, there are many.)
Farrar, who has been studying and teaching at the Syracuse University MFA Poetry Program for the past three years, has found himself as a vocalist on Spirit World, not only sounding more confident and in the pocket than he ever has before, but exploring amorphous lyrical territory about arrested development, botched relationships, and the never-ending hamster wheel of self-destruction so many creatives fall into.
“I’ve been very interested in will, as in a person’s faculty of consciousness and how we navigate actions and self-control,” Farrar says. “I’ve been worried for a long time that my lack of self-control will inevitably destroy me, so any paranoia on that matter is focused on this record.”
Spirit World is a carefully composed punk record by a band who is so in tune with one another as players that their physical separation didn’t affect the music when it came time to get together and work. Despite living in opposite ends of the country, they met up, rehearsed the new material, and demoed it out in Anaheim at a friend’s studio. After two weeks, the tracks were loose with Farrar only mumbling melody ideas on top of the band. A few months later, they linked up with producer Will Yip and he flushed out the demos, helping develop the structure as the songs took shape in the studio. To add some grit to their slew of polished post-punk hits, Anzaldo called on Greenberg to help develop melodies and interject synthesizers and keyboards into the songs before he mixed the record.
“We really took it song by song on this album,” says Anzaldo. “We pushed ourselves more than any other record. We didn’t have a lot of time together, so the time we did have was precious, and we were hyper-focused on making the best songs possible.”
Spirit World is full of layered sonic fury and anxiety, each song building up to a point and then descending down through a militant hook. “Turn Away the Bad Thing” sets the tone, guitars climbing around the driving bass line, as Farrar sings, “It’s getting harder for me to be alright/Eyes adjusting to the dark/The momentum of all these last resorts built inside of me.” Songs like “Presaging the End” and “Calming Water” feel romantic and distressed, while “Further I Was” and “Years of Love” are driven by Farrar’s rebellious energy as he repeats the hook with a deadpan realness. “Years of love can be forgotten/In the hatred of a day.” But the true stand-out is the title track, “In the Spirit World Now”, a haunting pop gem with a sticky chorus and lead synth riff that plants itself in your head as Farrar chants the track’s name over and over like a mantra. “The spirit world is a sort of nebulous and ectoplasmic place where things may not be quite what they seem,” he says. Spirit World marks a milestone for this legendary Northern California punk outfit who have stayed true to themselves as songwriters throughout massive sonic growth throughout their long, storied career.
“Not reflecting on the evolution of the band is what keeps us motivated,” Anzaldo admits. “There is always a song we haven’t written, a band we haven’t played with, artwork we haven’t thought of. We are creators by nature, not by choice.”
Glitterer was born in August of 2017, when the eponymous Glitterer EP appeared on Bandcamp. To some, Glitterer seemed to manifest the parallel identity, something between an alter-ego and a superego, of Ned Russin, who wrote, sang, and played every note of the EP’s eight songs. Ned Russin is a New Yorker, by way of Northeastern Pennsylvania, a 29-year-old bassist and singer who made his name in music by playing in a band called Title Fight.
Glitterer features spartan instrumentation — bass, drum machine, synths, and a familiar voice — and its compositional ethos, such as the listener can grasp, lies in hyper-efficient deployment of discrete harmonic and melodic ideas, also known as verses, choruses, and bridges. The introspective but gnomic lyrics address the kinds of ontological, existential, epistemological, ethical, and moral questions one would expect might occur to a 20-something liberal-arts college student (which Ned was, at Columbia, at the time of Glitterer’s release) all while wryly acknowledging the predictability of such heady questions arising under such heady conditions.
Not Glitterer, a five-song follow-up, appeared eight months later. As is suggested by the antinomic title, the newer EP is even more preoccupied with contemplating the exigencies and implications of regarding oneself and of regarding oneself regarding oneself and, of course, of regarding oneself regarding oneself regarding oneself. And, as with the first record, no song extends a second beyond what’s necessary to deliver the minimally viable aesthetic and intellectual goods. One would be hard-pressed to name an artist that conveyed a higher concentration of stimulation and aural pleasure in 2017 and 2018.
At this point in the story, Glitterer was all but bound to be forced into certain boxes. Here we had what appeared, at a casual glance, to be an erstwhile rock musician’s inevitable solo-electro project, consisting as it did of cleverly written songs whose principal subject was the very self that had conceived them. And this at a time when the most talked-about independent musicians were radically self-involved “Soundcloud rappers,” a time whose zeitgeist, engineered in large part by Silicon Valley’s oligarchs and their data-harvesting social networks, produced and nurtured the most narcissistic individuals in the most narcissistic moment in the history of the most narcissistic society in the history of the world. In this context, Glitterer must be a low- or no-stakes novelty exercise in recreational solipsism. Or else one disingenuous man’s cynical bid for a slice of the post-Lil Peep streaming-revenue pie. Or else a bit of self-serious critical-theory cosplay meant to flatter the intellectual vanity of budding coastal elites. Or maybe a toxic mix of all three?
But anyone harbouring such suspicions was disabused of them as soon as they saw Glitterer play live during this period. Recordings are plastic objects (in more senses than one) onto which listeners project their biases: A musician who tries to convey vulnerability, earnestness, or self-effacement solely through records is at the mercy of those who would superimpose onto them their own cynicism. (This is, after all the most narcissistic moment in the history of the most narcissistic society in the history of the world.) Live performance is different: A musician who goes out of his way to commune in good faith with people who themselves have gone out of their way to stand together in a room — such a musician is not so easily dismissed. And so it was that, accompanied only by a microphone stand and a Mac laptop perched on a stool like a standup comic’s glass of water, Ned performed 42 U.S. shows from 2017 to 2019, mostly opening for punk and hardcore bands. His dad called it his karaoke act.
But the live show, too, was a contingency, a temporary means to an end that, like the EPs, occluded an essential paradox: Glitterer is a solo project, Glitterer is Ned Russin — but Glitterer is, and has always been, a band.
Hence Looking Through The Shades, Glitterer’s debut full-length album, out on Anti- in summer 2019. Recorded in the cozy carpeted basement of the Russin family home, in Kingston, Pa., and co-produced by indie-rock prodigy Alexander Giannascoli and the Arthur Rizk (Code Orange, Power Trip, Sumerlands, the 2018 Grammy Awards), the album not only contains Glitterer’s best-yet sonics and songs; it has been constructed in such a way as to evince a spirit — co-operative, semi-schizophrenic, greater than the sum of its parts — that is proper to rock bands and that is inaccessible to even the least self-involved Soundcloud rappers and bedroom artists.
Simply put, Looking Through The Shades is the sound of a group of people playing music, together, in a room. Now we have live drums (Ned’s brother Ben does the honours) and dopamine-releasing fuzzy guitars (Ned’s other brother Alex contributes a solo) to go with the synths, the bass, and the voice. Now we have a 14-song-long thematic arc, carefully sequenced. Meanwhile, the lyrics are still reluctantly but rigorously self-aware, the choruses are still habit-formingly catchy, and the arrangements still carry not an ounce of excess fat. From the saturated distortion of the opener, “The Race” (“I wish I could look at your life and know it’s mine”), through the road-weary “1001” (“I sang 1,000 songs / Didn’t want to sing again”) and the vox-and-bass-only Side B outlier “The News” (“I used to be original”), listeners are invited to join the album’s team of creators in wrestling with the defining psychological and social conditions of our age. And thus we discover that Glitterer invokes solipsism not to glorify or revel in it but to understand and rise above it, and that Glitterer knows that no individual can accomplish such a task alone, which is why Glitterer is a rock band and always has been, even when only one person’s name was attached to it.
Glitterer was born in August 2017 and now, with Looking Through The Shades, Glitterer has come of age.
54 N. Orange Ave.
Orlando, FL, 32801