rathauz // ciccio bomba cannoniere
(Drowned By Locals)
‘Erect, rechargeable intelligent machine with organic dog’ – that’s not your weirdo neighbour, it’s the humanoid ‘M.E.R.I.C.O.O.’ gracing the cover of rathauz’ new record: ciccio bomba cannoniere. This awful contender looks like Sir Killalot’s hard older brother, complete with a cyclops doberman. He’s got a kebab for a head, he’s clutching a weapon, and he’s accessorised with a fetching crown of barbed wire. The LP he’s guarding for the Venetian techno-trap-thrashers is unpretentious, confrontational, and compulsive.
In the reams of world-building content rathauz have created, they are the tweenie architects of a paranoiac doom-dreamscape loosely centred on their home village in Veneto, Italy. Hours of video and livestreams? Tick. Unabomber-style manifestos? Tick. Android game? Tickedy tick. They marry a VHS Wrestlemania visual sensibility with the modern impulse for globalised anxiety.
We’re smothered with layers of financialised captures – laboratories, schools, nations, nightclubs, and prisons; almost beyond comprehension and impossibly tangled with barbs of control and interest. With a bunker-state mentality, rathauz embody this vision musically through outsiderish, industrial takes on house and techno that burst from the seams like a noise-punk Hulk and barrel through hardcore, trap, and grunge in tiny purple shorts.
In the electronic tracks that kick the album off, there are a few different skeletons that rathauz costume in their video-nasty sonics. ‘Stahlwerk’ is a frantic 140 techno workout, while ‘NUDC’ brings the tempo down to emphasise a malevolent horror-house groove. Jabbering acid lines chat away with what sounds like a circuit-bent Tickle-Me-Elmo being stamped on repeatedly to deliver a chilling, robotic suffer-rap.
The next track, ‘INFRANTVS’, eases the throttle further to a dembow pace, but one finger remains firmly pressed on the suffer switch. Demented samba whistles abound, placing the track somewhere between carnival float and funeral march.
You could draw a line to the punk-indebted bats’n’glocks goth trap of City Morgue, Lil Wop, and others. But in the latter half of ciccio bomba cannoniere the ratio is reversed, with a glut of heavy metal and punk styles dominating the sonic fabric. The strong influence of trap music is told in flashes where vocals slip into a rap cadence, or ticking hi-hats step in to replace pounding acoustic drums.
This grizzly second half is where the vocal performances come into their own. Early in the record they’re ominous – spooky even – but as the album progresses with a more fuzzed-up bite for backup they’re a commanding presence.
‘Venetia-monitor’s guitar line feels like a riff illicitly drained from Nirvana’s Nevermind with a giant needle, transmogrified into MIDI, and played back through a stack of bargain bin flangers. Like Nirvana, rathauz use contrasting dynamics effectively – even if their ‘quiet’ sections are punctuated with samples of human screams and heckling crows.
I’m reminded of Schwarzenegger’s OTT epic, The Running Man. Once the baying crowd have witnessed another spectacular goring on their telly sets, they can slope off to the state sanctioned club and shock out to the authoritarian-imagery techno heard in the album’s first portion. Simultaneously, the resistance are brukking it to the hardcore-indebted second half – something like The Dicks’ ‘Hate The Police’ or Dead Kennedys’ ‘Nazi Punks Fuck Off!’ beamed to a dub soundsystem via a dying modem unit.
To conclude this review I’ll make like Pete Seeger and ask: which side are you on? Thrash-metal rebels or despicable techno punters? Either way, one toe out of line and you’ll face a disciplinary from the terrible gent and his one-eyed dog.