In 2008, Connecticut two-piece Have a Nice Life released their debut album, deathconsciousness. The album cover, a crop of The Death of Marat, is arguably the most famous painting from the French Revolution. Painted by Jacques-Louis David, it depicts the French revolutionary leader Jean-Paul Marat dead in his bathtub after being stabbed by one, Charlotte Corday. The painting has a far-reaching historical influence, and as an icon for one of the most important periods in human history, it’s no shocker it pops up now and again in popular and underground culture.
(Enemies List Home Recordings) 2008
As the cover to deathconsciousness, The Death of Marat feels all too fitting. The image is bleak, and the music follows perfectly in suit (as it does from the band’s name, from a dark parody standpoint). Ostensibly a post-punk outfit, Have a Nice Life tend to blur genre boundaries more than they ever stick to an edified regime, and they’re always all the better for it. Dan Barrett and Tim Macuga – the sole members of Have a Nice Life – share vocal duties, in which their unrefined and often shrouded-in-noise bellowing is something like Ian Curtis or Johnny Rotten singing inside a vacuum, if, of course, one could hear anything in a vacuum.
The vacuum might just be the perfect analogy for the sound of deathconsciousness, an album that seems insurmountably dark and dense, like a collapsed star sucking in all existing sounds, compacting them, and spewing out a crude yet addictive slurry for the ears. What separates Have a Nice Life from their contemporaries is their unique fusion of post-punk, shoegaze, industrial, goth and drone, most brilliantly executed on their debut, though spun exceptionally tight on their follow-up, The Unnatural World (2014), and the (still) free EP from 2010, Time of Land.
For a two-piece, the band manages to make a hell of a lot of noise, but what keeps it from just being noise is a focused lens. deathconsciousness filters it’s noise through a rigorous ideology, a higher level understanding of the search for light in absolute darkness. Where lesser acts might sooner guide a piece to more commercial friendly territory, Have a Nice Life delve deeper into the dark. The band won’t shy from the possibility of going 7+ minutes without vocals or percussion, transforming the banality of the interlude into a densely woven piece of drone music. When the drums do eventually kick back in, as raw as they are, the effect is sublime.
Yet, somehow, beneath the slurry the melodies posses their own hooks, nestled deep within the sound. After all, good music requires good ingenuity behind it, meaning an understanding of how it can work on many levels. Loveless isn’t a timeless album because it sounds like shoegaze. It’s timeless because the entire album is meticulously crafted from the ground up. Every song has something that corrals the listener, keeps them coming back years later. deathconsciousness works similarly, and although the band seems to draw from many sources, the album remains fresh, distinct.
Nearly a decade after it’s release, it wouldn’t surprise to find that deathconsciousness still garners a steady stream of new listeners. I, myself, was lured in not long ago by its minor cult status and promises to deliver ample doom and gloom. Immediately, its alien sound is captivating, but its shear length intimidating – clocking in at just under an hour and a half. However, that the album beseeches you of your time is not to its fault, it’s simply a matter of whether or not one is up for taking time to hear what can be revealed. In its revealing, deathconsciousness does not disappoint.