Oakland’s Kowloon Walled City formed in 2007 as an intense postmetal outfit who tipped their hat to fellow Oaklanders Neurosis, who’d helped pioneer the fusion of hardcore and sludge. During the 14 years since, the band have slowly pulled back on the aggression and fury, settling into creeping, deliberately paced noise rock. Kowloon Walled City’s newest effort, Piecework, is also their first album in six years, released jointly by the always-excellent Gilead Media and Neurosis’s own Neurot Recordings. It documents a band hitting their stride perfectly and decimating everyone else in the genre. Piecework rides on massive, plodding beats that recall the style of Slint drummer Brit Walford, fleshed out with grimy fuzz bass, dueling electrical-cable guitars, and the distressed vocal dissonance of Scott Evans. Intricate, room-miked, and mean, Piecework captures Kowloon Walled City perfectly riding a knife edge: it’s simultaneously pummeling and introspective, furious and forlorn. Reinvestigation of the Touch and Go sound is in full swing right now, with bands from all over doing their best to pay homage to the likes of the Jesus Lizard, Shellac, Polvo, and Slint—hell, even I’m doing it—and every time I hear a record from a contemporary group playing in this style, I’m overjoyed and fully on board. Piecework smashes together all the best sounds from the label’s golden era, creating a stirring masterpiece that’ll be near impossible for any noise-rock band out there today to top.
Kowloon Walled City’s Piecework is available on Bandcamp.