Seattle’s legendary underground experimental hip-hop/thrash band NAUTICULT have a morbid message on their new EP, Human Use of Human Beings. Or, maybe several: “don’t put me in a box unless you wanna bury me in it,” “live in the apocalypse now,” “drown your rapist in battery acid,” to name just a few.
Perhaps the term ‘legendary’ doesn’t suit a band only three years old; on the other hand, those with ears to the ground and eyes to the stage within our city’s live music culture know – or should know – of NAUTICULT’s beastly, one-of-a-kind live energy. It’s a spectacle, presenting both the expected and unexpected. While their uniquely heavy, glitched-out beat-making and sharp, relentless live drumming (from Evan Fitzgerald) mix flawlessly with the nü-metal/punk guitar riffage of Dylan Berry, creating a sound signature to them, the anxious chaos in which MC/Vocalist Austin Sankey engulfs audiences is something else entirely. This chaos will show up at the gig, on the guest list – but just what shape Sankey’s sweaty, tense presence will take cannot be predicted by a longshot. The boundary between performer and spectator breaks, it ceases to exist, when NAUTICULT takes the spotlight.
So, too, should their recorded music send the listener into an utterly intense headspace. On Human Use of Human Beings, NAUTICULT have successfully captured their essence through three tracks that are as psychotic as they are thought-provoking. Various disembodied voices will greet the listener as the EP unfolds, but none demand your attention more aggressively than Sankey’s. Her delivery is raw and speedy – spewing lyrics like a busted fire hose, she reminds one of a post-ironic Mike Shinoda (one fed up with what the world has become) mixed with Aesop Rock in an emo phase. On the band’s overall sound, the listener can draw immediate connection to Death Grips; however, it’s worth noting that more live cymbal use, different production techniques, and lyrical subject matter are just some of the many components that allow NAUTICULT to peacefully coexist with such peers, while remaining distinctly apart.
Human Use of Human Beings keeps you guessing as its meager three tracks unfold, expand and collapse into themselves. The first and final tracks (“Fauna of Mirrors” and “Saturn Devours the Sun”) play out in a series of acts, while the EP’s single, “CTRL+ALT-RIGHT+DEL,” wastes none of its tight 2:41 runtime with pleasantries, breakdowns, or explorations, in favor of fiendish, thrashy writhing. This works well, as the aforementioned opener and closer have plenty of room to play with negative space and abstract arrangements of samples, spoken word, and their own live instrumentation, in between melodies rooted in hardcore, metal, screamo, hip-hop, punk – the list goes on. There’s a lot to digest, as is hopefully made clear, and that high caloric density is absolutely a good thing.
Texture is on display throughout the EP, as swelling sub bass encircles the mix, inside which guitar and drums slice one another potently. The mood of Human Use of Human Beings is harshly negative, with anger seeping through every pore of the songs. In the lyrics, violent imagery interlaces with seemingly stream-of-consciousness strands that invoke sci-fi, fantasy, and mysticism. The anger, though, is staunchly directed at deserving parties: abusers, evildoers, bigots, facists. NAUTICULT makes it clear in “Saturn Devours the Sun”: “I will find whoever hurt you, and drown their life force.” For all of the darkness that the lyrics invoke, the intensity of the message is only emphasized by Berry’s wailing, menacing guitar riffage. At times thin and riding the highs, à la Larry LaLonde of Primus, the guitar tends to help hold down the EP’s heaviness, and often is central to the parts of NAUTICULT’s sound that err toward hardcore and nü metal.
It is fully merited to say that NAUTICULT has made a great EP – in fact, their obvious commitment to making their release an art piece, an experience that rises above hooks over beats and goes beyond “songs”, shows that they are indeed capable of making an exceptional full-length album, hopefully someday soon (note, they have another, longer EP: 2017’s Phantom Limb). NAUTICULT is another clear example of how rap/hip-hop, abstract noise, and electronic music are slowly merging to dominate the future. Still, they simultaneously disprove a popular notion; rock and roll’s not dead, yet.
Human Use of Human Beings releases tomorrow, July 9th, at NAUTICULT’s EP release show at The Ruins. The lineup features heavy-hitting Seattle acts across a variety of genres, and includes Guayaba, Fucked and Bound, So Pitted, and the burlesque group Valtesse. The event will also feature music from DJ OC Notes, pop-up tattooing, aerialists, and fantastic vibes. Buy tickets here, and stream the new EP below: