Systemic by Divide And Dissolve

Release date: June 30, 2023
Label: Invada

Since they released their critically acclaimed album Gas Lit, in 2021, Divide And Dissolve have toured North America and Europe with Low and also performed headline dates and festival appearances. Systemic is their fourth album and once again the Melbourne based duo of Takiaya Reed (saxophone and guitar) and Sylvie Nehill (percussion) have recorded an uncompromising and utterly unique sounding album, which Takiaya says is a continuation of Gas Lit.

The band’s main focus remains Indigenous Sovereignty. They strive to make music that honours their ancestors and Indigenous land, to oppose white supremacy and work towards a future of Black and Indigenous liberation. Takiaya says that “This music is an acknowledgement of the dispossession that occurs due to colonial violence…The heaviness is really important…the heaviness feels emblematic of this world’s situation”.

The album opens with ‘Want’ which is an intro piece of warped tones that simultaneously sounds like a warning alarm and a fairground at the same time. Nothing like the primary sound Divide and Dissolve make, so welcoming to hear expansion into other sounds. Before long though we are into familiar territory with ‘Blood Quantum’ with expertly played saxophone drones that weep with melancholy before being crushed with the crashing combination of drums, cymbals and heavy distorted guitar. Whilst this music appears initially to be relentless noise, underneath the volume there’s layers of melody and the dynamic movement of the piece is subversively brilliant and thrilling. That’s what makes this band so unique and special.

‘Derail’ goes straight into a funereal grind of slowly battered percussion and elongated riffs, like a demonic version of Low. Again, the controlled fury builds an unsettling tension as the track threatens to explode. ‘Simulacra’ is practically thrash metal compared to ‘Derail’ such is the uptake in tempo. Takiaya shreds and shakes her guitar violently before ebbing into a calm passage like dying embers of a destructive fire. ‘Reproach’ plays on an elastic riff over a seismic throb of guitar and crashing cymbals. This is as playful as Divide and Dissolve get, given the sheer intensity of their sound.

The brutal ‘Indignation’ begins as a mournful progression of droning saxophone (and maybe synths) that erupts into a twisted carnage of hefty riffs and pounding drums. Every thunderous crack of the snare like another car ramming into a deathly pile-up. As ever, it’s absolutely uncompromising music and a challenging listen. Centre piece ‘Kingdom Of Fear’ is a spoken word track featuring Minori Sanchiz-Fung, who the band have worked with on previous albums, that is striking and deeply emotive. Her voice veers on the edge of despair as Takiaya and Sylvie play an isolating and sparse backdrop of piano, synths, free roaming guitars, and restraint drumming.

The mighty ‘Omnipotent’ is a taut and physical pulverisation of drums and doomy riffs that is weighty and powerful. Listen closely and you’ll hear a haunting whooshing sound like spirits escaping from a hellish place, it’s weirdly unsettling. Then the stunning ‘Desire’ ends the album with a beautiful set of melodic drones like the accompanying music to a winter wonderland. It’s utterly beguiling and even hopeful, yet there’s an emotional pull into something tragic and desolate.

I reviewed Gas Lit having been struck with the sheer power of Divide And Dissolve’s music. I was keen to see how the band have adapted to their increase in fan base since. Musically, the force of their sound remains undiminished. The band are also still focussed on delivering their message despite making instrumental music. In fact, Takaiya emphasises it’s crucial their music is instrumental saying “A huge percent of communication is non-verbal. We learn so much without using words”. Systemic is concise and dynamically perfect and has to be played as loud as possible to truly experience its magnitude and power.

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