There’s a certain restlessness that comes with leaving things unfinished. When potential is left unrealized, one can’t help but be plagued by thoughts of what might have been, or how things could have been different. This uneasiness, like a specter, haunts the far corners of your head; always nagging and tearing at the frayed edges. For many musicians, the stresses and complications that come along with success are often an unexpected and bitter pill to swallow. Some projects die before they truly grow wings; others fade into darkness just as they are burning brightest. Such is the case with New York hardcore outfit Quicksand, who are back with Interiors – their first record in twenty-two years.
Most reviews don’t begin with a history lesson, but in the present case, this author believes it is warranted. Quicksand formed back in 1990, which is, incidentally, the year I was born. They emerged from the New York hardcore scene to critical acclaim and early recognition. The band’s unique sound was raw, aggressive, and also dynamic. It was due to that cocktail of elements that they found early success, culminating in two early major releases. Their last release was titled Manic Compression, which came out in early 1995.
Riding the success of their studio records, they found themselves touring extensively. At their height they were even invited to play the very first Warped Tour! The various pressures of touring would prove to be the undoing of the band’s momentum unfortunately, as stress (in addition to internal tensions) ultimately caused a premature end to their reign. They played their last show in 1998, a reunion attempt which lead to an indefinite hiatus.
Before listening to Interiors, I immersed myself in the band’s older material to gain some familiarity with their sound. 1995’s Manic Compression is, for example, raw and aggressive, though not without nuance. It was easy to pick up on the hardcore and punk elements in the music, and I found it very enjoyable. At this point, I finally felt ready to tackle their new material.
Let’s stop talking about the past, though, because Quicksand are back with Interiors! This album is more than just another item to be added to their discography; Interiors is a testament to the growth that truly takes place over two decades, expressed through sound. After acquainting myself with who/what the band used to be, I was ready to meet them as they are now. Interiors was an entirely different experience, in the absolute best of ways. Upon first listen, I felt like I had stepped out of a time machine because of the striking difference. Nowadays, their sound is decidedly more polished and mature, yet retains the turbulent bass and heavy riffing of past releases. The evolution of the music (and by proxy the musicians) was very apparent.
Album opener “Illuminant” starts off with a brooding guitar riff that serves as the bedrock for a discordant and ear-catching guitar line that permeates the song like a mist. It is immediately clear that the band is intelligent in their use of space and dynamics. The transitions are smooth, and these guys know exactly when to dial back. In turn, this creates a very well-paced and interesting journey through the record.
A consistent theme throughout Interiors is the astounding interplay the band employs, which serves as evidence that they have labored to create a multidimensional and cohesive listening experience. Frontman Walter Schreifels has clearly developed his range and versatility as a vocalist, sitting pleasantly in the songs without being overbearing. He and guitarist Tom Capone play off of each other in a very organic way, bringing ambient effect-laden guitar and heavy straightforward riffs to bear. Drummer Alan Cage expertly drives the flow of each song, whether he is laying into the intro of “Under The Screw” or sitting back in the title track.
One very pleasant surprise was bassist Sergio Vega, who really shines through as the meat on the bones of the individual songs. His groove absolutely saturates the music on Interiors, and as a result I kept catching myself bobbing my head along as I listened. Another element I was fond of was the use of tracks like “>” as brief interludes, to cleanse the palate before continuing on with the album. The track’s ambient swells really made way for “Cosmonauts” which has to be my favorite track from Interiors. It features atmospheric guitar leads, a straightforward rhythm guitar component, and plenty of room for Sergio and Alan to do their thing. The vocals flow perfectly with the music, bleeding emotion into the experience. This is Quicksand at their most cohesive, and their sound achieves a greater depth as a result. “Cosmonauts” is the equivalent of the band’s namesake, because I found myself stuck in it and unable to move on for some time.
Interiors is full of moments like this, where it seems like the creative genius of these musicians has created a quagmire from which your mind cannot wander, but it is not without its missteps. The latter part of the album unfortunately loses a little bit of steam. Songs like “Feels Like A Weight Has Been Lifted” and “Sick Mind” feature interesting musicianship, yet ultimately fail to exceed the sum of their parts. Thankfully those experiences are in the minority, but they do detract somewhat from the experience. Album closer “Normal Love” puts the groove on full display, and as a result, the bass and drums do most of the talking here, while the guitars simply accent the experience.
Quicksand have returned from the dead with a gift from the other side. Interiors is at once a bold statement of the distance the band has come and a touching embrace of their roots. Twenty-two years of distance creates a lot of room for growth, and Quicksand have displayed that growth in a mature and refreshing way. I sincerely hope I don’t have to wait two more decades to hear the next one.
Notable Tracks: “Cosmonauts”, “Interiors”, “Illuminant”
FFO: Helmet, Rival Schools, Glassjaw