For all the dark tones pulsing through Gauntlet Hair’s new album Stills, there is also a guileless affection for the goth industrialists and post-punks who blazed a shadowy path through the 80s and 90s. Recorded during Portland, Oregon’s grey winter days in producer Jacob Portrait’s (Unknown Mortal Orchestra) appropriately named studio “The Cave,” Stills is a modern salute to Trent Reznor and his cohort’s arena-ready post-apocalyptica.
The album follows the once-Denver-based band’s 2011self-titled debut for Dead Oceans and singles spread across labels like Forest Family and Mexican Summer. After moving back to their hometown of Chicago last year, drummer Craig Nice and singer/guitarist Andy R. looked to their teenage selves for inspiration. “I started listening again to the stuff I would have in my discman in the back of my mom’s car,” says Nice. “White Zombie, Marilyn Manson — the production on those records is so amazing. Nothing sounds like that anymore.”
Mining childhood nostalgia for inspiration has proved effective. Stills cuts like “Human Nature,” “GID” and “Waste Your Art” have the signifiers of industrial and minimal-wave a la British contemporaries The Durutti Column & Joy Division, but all the fluidity and momentum of INXS & Depeche Mode’s 80s pop. Here are the dirty, fuzzed out guitars. Here is the guttural groan on “Bad Apple.” Here is Seattle grunge’s nasal sneer on “Heave.” Here are your tinny synths. Here is your stomping back beat. Here is your horror, and your joy.