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culture

Sound Advice: Fears, by Pretty Mouth

Toronto hardcore outfit Pretty Mouth explores the limits of both chaos and restraint.

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Known for its disarming, often explosive live shows, Toronto’s Pretty Mouth possesses an aesthetic that’s equal parts intellectual exercise and violent aural experiment. Fusing elements of noise rock, grindcore, hardcore punk, and even a little powerviolence, it strikes a balance between the melodic and the atonal, striving to be at once unpredictable and catchy. Its full-length Fears, originally released in digital format in the fall of 2013, is now available on vinyl via Bonesaw Records.

From the opening screams of “Eyes,” Pretty Mouth makes it clear that it’s comfortable working with various forms and incarnations of discord. This tendency toward the chaotic takes many forms over the course of Fears, including eerie spoken-word passages, inhuman shrieking, and squealing layers of reverberating feedback. What makes Fears remarkable is the way that these elements are woven together to create songs that have hooks and entry points, structure and depth. Pretty Mouth has a talent for making the ethereal feel suddenly solid.

Despite its almost preternatural ability to control wild and fractured elements, Pretty Mouth is also comfortable letting its work get dangerously close to falling apart into broken noise. “Demons” constantly threatens to shake apart at the seams; “Zounds” seems to circle the drain of its own shattered structure, becoming steadily more violent. These moments, though, are exhilarating rather than frustrating, because no matter how close to the edge Pretty Mouth comes, it’s always able to rein Fears back in somehow and find the structure in the chaos. The result is a breathless, captivating piece of hardcore that is as thrilling as it is exhausting.

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