Locking yourself away for long periods of time seems to be quite the thing these days when recording an album. Despite the danger of totally losing your mind in a House of Leaves style, and the very real possibility that any sense of reality and proportion might be lost, such an approach can really pay off. In the case of Ten Kens, it could just be that they managed to create their own masterpiece with For Posterity.
Getting a grip on this album is particularly tricky because it is widely varied in terms of mood, pace, and ideas. There is no doubt that what Ten Kens make is an unholy racket, but to limply describe it as alternative rock would be to do it an enormous disservice. For Posterity may well come equipped with an array of aggressive riffs, hardcore drumming and basslines so heavy they could cause nasal cavities to collapse, but there’s so much more going on here.
On the flipside of their frenetic outbursts are some remarkably refined melodic moments which could almost be labelled as straight-up pop. Perhaps the most obvious example of this comes in the form of Summer Camp, which lies at the heart of the album. Sandwiched between white-hot metallic guitar riffs that recall those striated ear-shredders punched out by Big Black is a strange about-face skip through a 1950s Parisian-flavoured dreamscape. Chuck in a few Pixies-inspiredoutbursts and some almost narcoleptic vocals from the remarkably versatile Dan Workman and you’ve got a song that shifts and morphs its form constantly. Some might find these changes jarring, but the hazy way in which each change is made makes for a beguiling listen.
More straightforward are the likes of Grassmaster which initially is indebted to the primal scream of Nirvana‘s more white-knuckle outbursts. However Ten Kens still find time to allude to The Doors, The Addams Family and skiffle before exploding back into a sea of unbridled wrath.
The direct rock of Screaming Viking undulates between intense claustrophobic rushes and brief calming lulls. A heart-pounding breakdown that grows into an unrelenting climax winds the song up in frantic fashion. Elsewhere there are definite nods to the blues, notably on the intro of Yellow Peril, which is awash with reverb and menace. Ever shifting in mood, it becomes something of a terrifying listen. Workman’s vocals start out like those of a pre-teen choirboy, morph into a weird cartoon hillbilly drawl, and attain heavenly status for a brief time before detonating into a seething rage – something mirrored by the squealing guitars behind him.
Simply stuffed with ideas from beginning to end, For Posterity is a clever, if occasionally confused and confusing record. However, it’s the claustrophobic nature of songs such as Yellow Peril, the menacing certain-to-be-in-a-David-Lynch-movie creep of Back To Benign, and Can’t Not Be Dark that define the album. The latter of these three finishes the record in considerable style. Its haunted house atmospherics, squalling guitars, and industrial drums suggest that the recent Swans reformation was perhaps not entirely necessary.
Ten Kens have created a dense and at times dark album. Its mood and construction is not dissimilar to Liars‘ fantastic Sisterworld, with a smidgen of Shudder To Think thrown in for good measure. This is of course no bad thing, and For Posterity’s cavernous songs are massively rewarding when explored thoroughly by those with no problems with enclosed spaces.