My ears have been ringing for days. It’s not really my fault though, because HSY is the one responsible for creating what is basically a sonic war tactic in album form. Not many artists can start a debut record with nothing but a thick, infinite blanket of feedback, because there’s the obvious danger of alienating your audience before you eek out so much as a C-sharp. But that’s what HSY—whose members go only by the single names of Jude, Anna, Kat and Link—do on the opening track of their first EP.
That track, Milkchug, opens up a bit after the initial aural battle. The drums kick in with a combination of rapid thwacks and pounding, graceless thumps. Then Jude begins to hack out a series of words like his throat has just been scrubbed with a Brillo pad. Slimeball is a little more structured, with patterned drum beats somehow guiding the track back into itself for a final collision. That’s followed by the heavily tranquilized Ladies Night, with Jude letting words fall out of his mouth like he’s hanging upside-down. Just three songs in, and you’ll start to feel a little bruised.
HSY hail from Toronto and recorded this EP in a small church away from the city. Maybe it was cold in that church, because HSY sounds like it was produced in a vat of frozen maple syrup. Kind of like it’s always being played at half-speed: chapped, raw guitars dragged through an ocean of scratchy wool sweaters. But this doesn’t mean the EP is devoid of any structure. In fact, where HSY manages to escape the pitfalls of creating mere noise is in its ability to construct what are basically pop songs; though you’ll have to dig through tough layers of grime to get to them. The EP’s final and most impressive track, Tarter Mouth, features Anna on vocals, and underneath all the mounting reverb and frantic paranoid drumming is a pretty catchy chorus.
Oddly, four out of the five track titles on the EP are at least vaguely mouth-related. Milkchug. Waffles. Tarter Mouth. (Maybe Slimeball is a little more of a stretch, but your mouth can create one). It would make sense if the members of HSY had some kind of oral fixation, because although their walls of sound are central to their style, it’s their vocals that deserve credit for much of the EP’s intensity. Jude sings from somewhere below his throat, gurgling and propelling sounds out of his esophagus as they bubble up; Anna sneers and spits out lyrics like she’s just trying to finish the song so she can go blow her nose.
HSY is gnarled, grumpy, and even grotesque, but its unlistenable obscenity works, because it’s really only unlistenable on the surface. Ultimately, though, it’s a good thing HSY is only five tracks long. Otherwise they’d probably have to put a warning label on it.