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Frail Body headlines a triple threat of Midwest post-hardcore

Sunday, February 9, Communication, 7:45 p.m. Info

Every track on Rockford band Frail Body’s 2019 debut for the Deathwish label, A Brief Memoriam, boasts relentless performances, from Lowell Shaffer’s high-pitched shrieks and noisy waves of guitar to Nic Kuczynski’s lithe bass licks (particularly on “Aperture”) and Nicholas Clemenson’s furious, blast beat-inspired drumming. And yet, the band never wholly shies away from tonally switching things up, as on “Traditions In Verses,” which begins with the deliberateness of a mid-era Unwound track before rapidly upping the ante on its latter half. It’s perhaps the sweeping undercurrent of melancholy throughout Memoriam that keeps the tunes engaging, even in the trio’s dizzying intensity, which reaches its peak as “Your Death Makes Me Wish Heaven Was Real” draws to a raucous close.

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With additional performers and expanded sonic palette (including guest violinist, cellist, and trumpeter on the “Morning” interlude), Milwaukee’s Snag takes a slightly more math and post-rock-inspired approach to screamo, recalling the now retired Kidcrash and I Would Set Myself On Fire For You. Regarding the latter, perhaps “Fire Escape” is a most appropriate starting point, with its forthright lyrics that address a relationship fallout and ensuing self-hatred. Sam Szymborski (guitar), Bryan John Wysocki (drums), and Peter Murphy (bass) create snaky structures that harness their explosiveness as a unit throughout this self-titled record. Maybe most surprisingly effective is their environmental conscientiousness, most clearly communicated through audio clips, like Ethan Hawke’s Pastor Toller from Paul Schrader’s First Reformed (2018) on “The Only Rational Response,” which addresses the ecological collapse of the world as a reflection of our internal tumult.

Madison band Ghostar used striking dynamic shifts to create an entrancing edginess throughout their 2019 debut EP Swelling, akin to the tracklisting’s B-movie-like wordplay. Steve Higgins’ escalating guitar feedback on “Party Scars,” for example, cuts right into “Sludge Titan,” which channels Kevin Shields’ signature wall of sound. The closing minute of “Knight Rider also runs with this approach, as it builds elegantly with John McCracken’s sharp drum fills before screeching into oblivion. (McCracken is a Tone Madison contributor.) Echoing each other’s abrasive outros, these tracks admirably distill the 20-minute record’s purgative spirit, and conclude on “Prayer Rabbit,” uniting the grander instrumental swells with the searing intimacy of Higgins’ solo sections. Higgins and McCracken started Ghostar as a duo, and Kyle Kohl (whose recent projects have included Miyha and Parsing) recently joined on bass.

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