You know the disorientation of having earphones in after accidentally leaving your music player on full volume? For a split second you can actually feel your eardrums melting and dripping out of the waxy canals in your head. Your heart plummets into the acid bath that is your stomach. You hear the distant barking of your dead childhood dog calling you into the afterlife. Then you take out your headphones, adjust the volume and act like you didn’t just decimate your stereocilia. If you crave this sensation might I suggest listening to Dri Hiev’s Contravirtual?
Contravitural, the Calgary four piece’s sophomore EP, is the dissonant result of punk, industrial, electronic and scrap metal being thrown in a blender. And it’s kinda good. There is no doubt that the EP has strengths. On “Felix Down,” Carter Crough’s screeching, emotive vocals are reminiscent of the Pixies’ Black Francis. Crough’s use of shrieking monotony generates a sense of disconcertion in the listener. This, combined with a flurry of industrial noise, generates the perfect amount of dissonance and disorientation. Compared to Dri Hiev’s previous EP, Contravirtual is a huge improvement. The riffs have more punch and the tone has more grit. Clearly, the band have gained the confidence to move in a more unique, experimental direction.
Despite these positive elements I still can’t grant the album anything above “kinda good.” For one, the title Contravirtual, combined with the cover art and choice of musical sampling, suggests that the EP is reaching at a theme or concept relating to modern technology. Unfortunately, the attempt is uninventive and half-assed. The title track of Contravitrual opens with the classic iPhone “Marimba” ringtone. So cheap. So lazy. The underdeveloped theme distracts from, rather than enhances, the music. Further, the band replaced the drummer from their first EP with a drum machine. Whether this was an artistic or logistic choice is unknown. Regardless, the drum machine sounds contrived, repetitious and out of place in Contravirtual’s chaotic soundscapes.
Hoping to present an EP that reflects their new sound, Dri Hiev released Contravirtual in a rush. Unfortunately, the result is an underdeveloped EP which teeters between mediocre and good. Regardless, it demonstrates Dri Hiev’s potential to produce a killer album or EP in the future. In the meantime, I’m content to continue sipping on the industrial, electrical, noise smoothie that is Contravirtual.