"They are always different; they are always the same," British DJ John Peel famously said of his favorite band, The Fall. And while some bands choose to reinvent themselves from recording to recording, sometimes even outright changing genres altogether, others choose to refine themselves. Such bands can sometimes draw criticism for relying on formula, but oftentimes I find myself loving bands that are confident enough in what they're doing to simply try to perfect it with each album. Their discographies feel like a progression rather than scattered points on a broad map, and while some bands shine in reinvention there are others—like Los Angeles-based HEALTH—that are compelling in their ever-forward march into territory that, like The Fall, somehow feels familiar and new all at once.
On Vol. 4 :: Slaves of Fear, out last February, HEALTH seems to acknowledge it is one of these bands, presenting the album as an installment of its over-arching work rather than simply a new album.
"It's all kind of the same graph," bassist and founding member John Famiglietti tells SFR. "Even when stuff is changing or sounds a little different, it's still refining a vocabulary of this sound."
HEALTH has always stuck close to familiar touchstones of noise and industrial rock while maintaining a textural complexity and the immediately recognizable hushed vocal delivery of singer and guitarist Jake Duzsik. And though the new album sounds like HEALTH and the tweaks are minor, immediately the nü-metal chug of the guitars are notable in the second track "Feel Nothing."
The rest mines the best of the oft-
maligned sound of the aughts, when dance music met with heavier, almost metal tones. Elements of dance and club music build on the group's previous album, 2015's excellent Death Magic.
"That was a whole learning curve of stuff we didn't know how to do before," Famiglietti says of the band's expansion into electronic music territory. It's that level of desire to experiment that continues to set HEALTH apart, placing them into the same category as Peel's assessment of The Fall. "We're still very hungry to accomplish the sort of things we've done with the sound," he adds.
That path of refinement, however, could be self-defeating for lesser acts. The question becomes whether or not perfection is attainable and, if it is, then where do you go from there? Famiglietti doesn't seem sure it's a reachable goal to begin with, but it's one he strives toward anyway.
"I would like to reach [perfection] if it's possible, but the answer to what you want always changes," he tells SFR. "When it comes to 'want,' and just life in general, if you get something, you immediately want more or want something else or want it better. I think all humans are always consumed by this sort of want and unfulfilled-ness. I guess the Buddhists got it right, or whatever."
That same air of detached humanism pervades Vol. 4 :: Slaves of Fear, the title track of which warns of the consequences inherent in blindly following the reality presented to us by those who profit from it; namely, political, religious and/or corporate interests that would prefer endless war to the enhancement of human life. It's a message delivered at the right time—and a happy surprise, given the band's famously long gestation periods for albums.
HEALTH apparently sat on the songs for months before finalizing them for release, tweaking here and there and incorporating its production into a songwriting tool of its own. The end result is a zeitgeist for the moment we live in, a thoughtful work built on focus and intent—a stunning example of a band that is always different; always the same.
HEALTH with Youth Code and Upsetter
7 pm Monday May 6. $18-$22.
1352 Rufina Circle,