The rich and discordant textures of Algiers’ inimitable sound has always been intimidating; at times, it’s difficult to know quite what you’re listening to. It has turned into a source of frustration for the band and has certainly kept them from achieving any major commercial success. On last year’s remarkable single Can the Sub_Bass Speak? frontman Franklin James Fisher addresses these frustrations with a vitriolic spoken word verse delivered over a mix of free-form jazz and muted synths. A reference to postcolonial theorist Gayatri Spivak’s seminal Can the Subaltern Speak?, Fisher geolocalizes Spivak’s theories on the voices of those outwith the structures of power to the US. “Yeah, yeah, I see it’s kinda like gospel-punk, soul-punk, soul-rock, doom-soul”, Fisher spits, “What is this fusion? Man, it’s more like confusion”.
Algiers, in a word, have always been uncompromising and, yes, even confusing. With that in mind, the timing on their third record could not be more appropriate. In a world where confusion reigns and no one seems to hold the answer, There is No Year feels like music for the times. Forever on the edge of discordance, Fisher’s vocals are a centralising force and, as a result, when they are not thrust to the front of any given track, as with closers Nothing Bloomed and Void, the whole thing feels a little unfocused, pointless even.
However, in sourcing its lyrics from a single source – Fisher’s long-form poem Misophonia – and being recorded over a short period in a single location, as opposed to the file-sharing and intermittent recordings which brought their first two albums into being, it must be said that things, on the whole, feel more cohesive here. The tracks are jarring in isolation but the album as a whole is impressively fluid in its execution given that you afford it your full attention. The lyricism is more precise; their seemingly disagreeing soundscapes function more harmoniously in each other’s company; and everything feels a little more urgent as a result. Tracks like Dispossession, Chaka and Wait for The Sound are some of the band’s most confident and adroit work to date: soundtracking the apocalypse is no easy feat but Algiers are becoming better at it by the day.
There is No Year is a thoughtful, exacting and resolute meditation on alienation and confusion and getting shit done in the midst of it. A hard listen it may be but give it the time and give it your undivided attention, there’s much to love here if you do.