Peter Kernel - How To Perform A Funeral
Dominic Valvona 02/10/2010
Re-doing the rounds, so to speak, two-years after its original release, the art experimental Swiss punk band Peter Kernel's How To Perform A Funeral debut LP is seeing a sudden burst of interest. This is mainly due to their recent opening shows for Canada's finest Wolf Parade, with Spencer Krug personally inviting them to play over the blower.
Founded five-years ago in the Swiss municipality of Agno - which borders Italy - to initially produce Lo-Fi cinematic soundscapes for a musical project (Like A Giant In A Towel) and various film-making enterprises, so far this is their sole album and it speaks volumes; the title perfectly summarises the main themes, alluding to the groups seemingly morbid fascination with deathly atmospherics and chilling forebode. To suggest that this album is an experience would be an understatement, as it leaves you drained, feeling grimy, dirty and soiled, such is the melancholy abrasive stirrings - hey stay with me, it's better then it sounds!
Searing, biting guitars and screeching or repeatedly squalling one-note riffs cut through rolling toms, yelped vocals and narrated passages, all with an overriding American art-rocking sound. They either launch gusto style attacks, as on the Dinosaur Jnr.-esque 'Shoot Back', or slowly unravel squalid pro-longed extended monograms, as evidenced on the Pixies redolent 'Videotapes In Dubai'. Some of the methodical grinding and pounding on show steers the group towards the sustained and suspended anthems of doom merchants Earth and Sunn O))), but on a tighter schedule and with a tad more venom.
The final ritualistic totem stomp of 'Rena', really dips full foot and leg into the murky waters of dread, relentlessly washing up on the clashing cymbals and crunchy distorted guitar raggered rocks. Most of the material on offer could be summed up as dark, though there are some, if you could call it that, more lighter and driven songs, the No Age and grungy evoking 'Smiling' being positively cheery compared to the rest.
For such a monolithic backing track you need appropriate vocals, shared yells, readings and hysterical bellows, which are all present and correct. The female/male leads deliver stark and lingering lyrics, seething in diseased relationships, set to a harrowing backdrop of nihilism and grubby filthy littered interiors, which evoke comparisons to The Victorian English Gentlemen's Club and The Hunches.
OK, so they don't exactly play for the sheer joy of it, instead preferring to mount an expletory expedition across the post-grunge and punk wilderness, adding their European leanings to a mournful sonic landscape.