Chk Chk Chk
79 North Pearl Street
Albany, NY, 12207
Doors 8:00 PM / Show 9:00 PM (event ends at 12:00 AM)
This event is 18 and over
Chk Chk Chk
Combining punk abandon and tightly-coiled dance music has always been bonded into the band's DNA. It's this core plus their growth and mastery of songwriting that has seen them outlive the mid-2000s 'indie/dance punk' tag and has allowed them to consistently grow lyrically and sonically from album to album. As If is their most transcendent collection of songs yet.
"Each album we've made has gotten closer and closer to our live set and this, we're proud to say, is the closest we've come yet. We were heavily influenced by current dance music -- Nina Kraviz, Moodymann, Paranoid London, Rrose and Delroy Edwards were frequently referenced -- and philosophically by the early '90s house records we love on labels like Trax and Dancemania and by artists like Romanthony and Green Velvet. Those records sound great because they're fairly raw attempts to use the technology of the time to ape the New York and Philly disco records that those producers loved. We figured, if those old house records sound like they do because the artists manipulated disco samples with MPCs, why couldn't we just sample ourselves and manipulate the tracks with Ableton Live? The more raw it came out the better it felt, not only because that's what excited us about those old records, but because it felt more punk, which always feels good."
In the dark times,
Will there be singing?
Yes, there will be singing,
About the dark times. (Bertolt Brecht)
We won’t be led to slaughter.
This is self-genocide.
It’s the hand of the people that’s getting tenser now,
And when we rise up… (Algiers)
This is the musical response that dark times demand, one that not only shakes its fist but
deploys it. Locally-informed global citizens, Algiers refuse to sit idly by while most contemporary
artists appear perfectly content to sit out the revolution. Not only do Algiers harbor a purposeful
sense of obligation in what they do on their latest resistance record The Underside Of Power,
but they recognize the roots and thorns of precedent in said resistance.
“This album was recorded in a political environment that collapses the late 70s economic crisis
and the looming onslaught of arch-conservative neoliberalism, via Thatcher and Reagan, into
the late 1930s, a world riven by fascist nationalism and white power fantasies in the US and
abroad,” says bassist Ryan Mahan. Their shared experiences and collective understanding of
this rising tide of sinister politics compels them to make music together, to combat the
potentially crippling waves of frustration and despair to let out a soulful roar, a call-to- action set
to an eclectic, positively electric beat.
The inclination to do otherwise is one worth fighting. Take Algiers frontman Franklin James
Fisher, for example. Writing incendiary and even beauteous lyrics from inside a Manhattan
nightclub’s coat check room, enduring the same damn songs thumping away nightly in the next
room for the pleasures of a predominantly white audience, he tends to see the bigger picture as
well as its pointillistic details.
“This nightclub is every nightclub in the world, basically. Whatever is being played there,
whatever is happening there is happening everywhere else in the world,” he says. “It’s as if the
entire history of music is boiled down to these fifteen artists-- and I use the term loosely,” he
says with an exasperated, dismissive sneer. With the world burning outside, a generation’s
obliviously privileged dances to a carbon copied soundtrack.
It speaks volumes that a black man in America with an expensive Master’s degree-- and all its
overwhelming personal debt-- finds himself picking up shifts at such a place that literally
manifests the culture industry’s exploitation and commodification of black experience. An aptly
unjust fate, Fisher is confined to an enclosed space while others move their feet freely mere
steps away from him. “You have to find ways of getting through it without completely losing your
mind. Luckily I’m able to escape inside my own head.”
Fortunately, the multiracial quartet Algiers provides more than mere distraction, but rather a
revelatory creative release and wholesale rejection of the globally normative corporate playlist
culture. Poke at the seasoned members’ bruised flesh, and out come wafting touchpoints as
disparate and intriguing as Big Black, Wendy Carlos, John Carpenter, Cybotron, The Four Tops,
Portishead, Public Image Limited, Steve Reich, and Nina Simone, to name but a few. Deep
echoes of Black Lives Matter and its 20th century forbears gather, surge, and subside in their
often soulful work, a form of principled, acute dissent more interested in learning from the past
than in evoking nostalgia.
The variety of locales in which the band recorded the genre-resistant The Underside Of Power
echoes their present state of diaspora, as a multinational musical cabal with no more than two
members living in the same city simultaneously. The group’s virtual homelessness exposes
them, collectively and individually, to the codified injustices of creeping fascism, the
compounding plain-sight provocations of Britain’s xenophobia and Trump’s America.
“Brexit and the US election taking place at the beginning and towards the end of the process
definitely shaped it for better or for worse,” says guitarist Lee Tesche.
And while many artists seem uninterested or even afraid to fully engage with these potent topics
in song, Algiers has zero qualms about taking a direct approach. “We’re fortunate enough now
where we’re able to openly talk about racist, violent police and murderous state structures,”
says Mahan. “When we were growing up in the South, these critiques of class and race
oppression were largely and sometimes violently suppressed. It’s why we take inspiration from
the Panthers or the Chicano movement, to name two.”
Furthermore, the lack of a singular geographic base of operations only seems to creatively
embolden Algiers, who’ve adapted in brave new ways musically. “Being separate and still
wanting to write forced us to really get to grips with modern technology, to bend it to our will,”
says Mahan. That doesn’t mean geography is not important to Algiers. As the band’s very name
more than implies, they are inspired by the Algerian city at the center of a struggle to overthrow
its occupiers, a symbol of dignity and resistance to oppressed people everywhere.
Adding to this Casbah rocking mix of ideas is the relatively recent inclusion of drummer Matt
Tong, formerly of Bloc Party. Joining the group for the touring cycle following their prior album,
he’d spent time gelling with the original trio as a core component of their simply ferocious live
sets to understand and help shape the dynamic. “I was very conscious of being the new guy,
working out how to augment the emerging compositions without distracting from them,” he says.
For a band that seems to revel and thrive in flux, Tong’s substantial role in the making of The
Underside Of Power worked out well. “For me, what it is to work as a musician has changed
drastically since I first started out and Algiers has shown me that there is still so much to
Beyond the technical necessities living their respective lives both in and outside of music,
Algiers’ continued deviation from a more traditional band approach created a more versatile
sound, one that better incorporates a collective and respective panoply of influences and styles.
“We were determined to push our sound even further than before-- weirder, gentler, catchier,
noisier, groovier-- and had hope that we could somehow translate our live energy to record,”
Some of this is informed by their choice of collaborators in this process, a crew that includes
Adrian Utley [Portishead], Ben Greenberg [Uniform, The Men], Randall Dunn [Sunn 0)))], among
others. Pick any track off The Underside of Power and the reference points expand
exponentially, a dizzying and thrilling Recommended-If- You-Like list that would consume a
series of afternoons.
Featuring a fully-sanctioned sample of slain Black Panther Fred Hampton, the revolutionary
“Walk Like A Panther” presents an alternate reality where Adrian Sherwood produced Yeezus
instead of Rick Rubin, with Fisher bellowing justifiable threats over a storm of formidable sonics.
“Death March” fuses post-punk primacy to the Italo-horror tradition, in an effort to mirror a
looming and perpetual sense of modern dread. Elsewhere, the raucous “Cleveland” turns into a
full-on demonstration, with names of victims of institutionally sanctioned racial violence like
Sandra Bland and Tamir Rice invoked over a neck-snapping electro beat.
The dangerously poppy title track finds a glorious midpoint between Suicide and The
Temptations, making for the catchiest expression of outrage this side of the ‘70s. A molotov
cocktail of a single, that particular song represents a potential paradox for Algiers, the
maintaining of a renegade righteousness in the midst of a peppy soul tune. “It’s more important
than ever in this particular time, but it’s something we’ve never shied away from,” says Tesche.
The band doesn’t concern themselves with that risk. “No matter what your messaging is, you
can’t control what people will or won’t take away from it,” says Mahan. “The only thing you can
do is put stuff of substance out there.”
-Gary Suarez, April 2017