Loud. This word or variations of it are never too far away when talking about A Place to Bury Strangers
. The Brooklyn-based trio are regularly described as 'New York’s loudest band' and are renowned for reducing many a sound system to a blown-out wreck. As guitarist Oliver Ackermann puts it: 'Our music is perceived to be that loud because of the method of making it: the sound of a breaking public address system.'
Such statements – especially when combined with the band’s name – can lead the uninitiated to assume that A Place to Bury Strangers are a screeching metal outfit. But while earplugs are recommended for the band’s debut shows in China, there’s more to APTBS than mere bowel-shaking volume.
Since forming in 2003, the band have honed a dark, throbbing post-punk sound infused with fuzzed-up guitar riffs and wailing feedback. It’s music to be listened to loud, no arguing with that, but it’s also imbued with an impressive dexterity and subtlety.
Ackermann has played with a number of different members over the years – the current line-up is completed by drummer Lia Simone Braswell and former D4 guitarist Dion Lunadon – and it’s his work with his self-built pedals and gear that has come to define the band’s sound.
'A lot of the sound comes from the effect aesthetic I have developed over time,' he says. 'It’s a combination and growth of tools and developing a language with the style in which we play the instruments. A lot of it is based on the sounds that you would unintentionally create, artefacts, and the sound of pure raw energy like when something is smashed or destroyed.'
These effects have made such an impact that Ackermann now provides equipment for the likes of My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields and U2’s The Edge, through his Death by Audio operation. 'It is totally surreal,' he says when asked how it feels to help shape the sound of bands he’s idolised.
He adds: 'I create effects and units for myself because I am the only critic I can really trust. Music and sound is so abstract and the options and opportunities are absolutely limitless so it really comes down to aesthetic for the entire design experience that the artist will use, so to have artists I respect so much interested in my personal aesthetic is completely surreal.'
The chance to witness Ackermann’s aesthetic live in China may have Yugong Yishan’s sound guy sweating with trepidation, but it should also have noise- rock fans giddy with excitement.
Braswell reckons that we can expect an intense show: 'The adrenaline rush lasts from the moment we get to the venue and usually winds down shortly after we pack everything up. We all like to work hard so we try to keep the momentum up as much as we can. We hope the audience then uses the energy and applies it to what they’ve chosen – or not chosen – to do with their lives.'
Providing their ears can still function, of course.
By Jake Newby