Panic Lift: Witness to Our Collapse
Hive Records

Witness to Our Collapse's opening song “Everything I Have” suggests Panic Lift could conceivably be characterized as a surprisingly ear-friendly amalgam of synth-heavy electro, IDM, and New Wave—at least, that is, until James Francis's ultra-distorted vocals enter the fray and shoot the group's sound into the industrial stratosphere. Imagine the raucous howl of Trent Reznor's scream squeezed through a meat-grinder and you'll have some idea of the Panic Lift vocal style. The group's spearheaded by multi-instrumentalist and programmer Francis who's joined on the recording by keyboardist Dan Platt; live the duo are augmented by two percussionists and another keyboardist—a further indication of Panic Lift's combustive, even cacophonous attack. There's no question the fifty-five-minute full-length (the follow-up to the earlier Dancing Through the Ashes EP) is well-crafted—each song is carefully arranged and flawlessly produced, and Francis even manages to work in amongst the hellacious swarm an emotive piano lick or two, not to mention a disco beat, of all things, during “No Trace to Love”—though ferocious throwdowns such as “Remnants of a Dead Age” won't appeal to everyone. But Francis is smart enough to know that an occasional respite from the sonic onslaught is necessary and so also includes material like “Seasons Change,” a melancholy, rain-soaked epic featuring piano and strings. More often than not, however, Panic Lift opts for crushing intensity: the title song alternates restrained verses that layer film dialogue samples over a downtempo funk pulse with hammering choruses, while a brief voice sample of Richard Dawkins kickstarts the raving NIN-styled stormer “Save Yourself.” If you're taste runs to head-crushing beats, throbbing bass lines, and raging vocals, you may find Witness to Our Collapse worth checking out.

December 2008