Take the abrasive edge of New York post-punk and teleport it across to the Atlantic ‘til it’s gleefully lounging on bunting-strewn Leeds rooftop, and you land somewhere near Drahla. Now based between South London and Wakefield, this band channel familiar musical touchstones – Sonic Youth, Television, Pylon – and likewise, they approach their band like a multi-form art project. Constantly swapping instruments, launching into cacophonous saxophone solos courtesy of Chris Duffin of XAM Duo, and putting out avant-garde music videos that resemble conceptual installations, they also share a few rules (or rather, anti-rules) with New York City’s ‘no wave’ movement.
Recalling fellow Leeds-dwellers Gang of Four, highlights such as ‘Pyramid Song’ shimmer and shine while chaos rages beneath. The record’s centrepiece, ‘React/Revolt’, wails and screams thanks to Duffin’s uneasy sax lines, before springing nimbly into a thrashing chant from vocalist Luciel Brown. “Blood enamel. Ripened peach,” they deadpan, “Acid on glistening teeth”.
Brown’s lyrics are studied and specific: seizing on odd objects to paint strange and vivid pictures. On ‘Pyramid Estate’, they find “ancient Egypt in the palm of their hand” as they ponder how to an approach a new age of symbolism. ‘Invisible Sex’ seizes on gender norms with regimented precision: “Give me a gender, a profile to assign to,” Brown says. “A glorious reflection to elevate my DNA”, Brown says. “Visual exterior for opinion / Visual exterior for submission”.
Despite its monochrome aesthetics and jarring sonics, ‘Useless Coordinates’ steers clear of imitating the well-trodden past. Drahla’s melodies are gnarled and resist locking together at all costs; warped pop songs emerge out of the gloom. This is a meticulous debut that juggles razor-sharp control with barely contained chaos.