Release Date 05/06/2022
(Warp Records) NACC
There’s this thing about making art where in order to make it feel exciting for yourself, you have to reinvent yourself each time. You have to keep pushing. Go at it like a beginner. Take a white wall and color it in. Every new thing you make has to feel like a statement, the best new version of yourself. Dance punk royals !!! know the feeling well—they’ve been releasing urgent, obliterative, fuck-you music for 25 years. Music, for !!!, has to be a place where anything can happen. To quote frontman Nic Offer “We’ve always been pushing towards something stranger and weirder. We had to keep pushing on.”
The band’s ninth record, Let it Be Blue, takes that feeling of constant, radical transformation to new, untapped zones. It’s a record of sparse dance music. The kind of stuff you want to put on loud, let loose, go to the bar to get a drink only to abandon your plans because the song that just came on was too good not to dance to.
Let it Be Blue is a computer record, but it doesn’t feel like it. Featuring production from Patrick Ford, Let it Be Blue is the product of file sharing, trading stems, song particles, little ideas on their way to being fully realized dance tracks. It was conceived during the past two years, with dreams of future dancefloors very much on the brain. The resulting 11 songs are some of the band’s most production focused offerings to date. They’re crystalline, full of sub-bass and drums. It evokes visions of clubs where a concoction of Dembow and acid house play at volumes so loud your ears hurt and you forget what day of the week it is. In other words, it’s a !!! album. It makes you freak out a little bit.
Making something sparse was an exciting challenge for the band. “Starting as a band with seven or eight people, we were always crowding everything in and trying to fit as many parts as possible,” says Offer. Let it Be Blue is a departure from that.It’s minimalist, but that doesn’t at all mean that these songs aren’t complicated, self-contained worlds. They are.
“Storm Around the World,” starts out unassuming. Drum machines, bluish synthesizers, Rafael Cohen’s pristine vocals. Then it turns into a hypertrophied, club freakout. Sink Ya Teeth’s Maria Uzor jumps on the track, oscillating between spoken word and mysterious, hypnotic vocal runs. The song feels like a night bus conversation between Uzor and Cohen. It’s an electrifying duet.
“Panama Canal,” comes from file sharing between Rafael Cohen and Mario Andreoni. It started with Andreoni making a beat, and then Cohen getting excited because it sounded like “Plain Jane,” by A$AP Ferg. Featuring vocals from Meah Pace, the song is sweaty and slick, evoking Ferg as well as old Kompakt Records compilations, which Andreoni had been listening to at the time he made the beat for the song.
“This is Pop 2,” has the same glow as a Suicide song. Written by Nic Offer, the song is a slow burn. A drum machine pulses away in the background, while synthesizers grow louder and a guitar at the song’s midpoint makes the whole vibe ecstatic and sensual. “This is pop and it goes in your ears/All that matters is u like it there,” goes the song’s hook.
The record’s cast of collaborators are another !!! signature, another way for the band to feel constantly excited about the discovery process that is making new work. This shift has been in the works for a decade. It started on Thr!!!ler, a record that you might consider a turning point in the band’s expansive discography. In the past decade, the band has collaborated with an exciting rotation of artists. On this record, that desire to experiment alongside other artists feels especially realized. “Those characters stand out more,” says Offer. They feel especially distinct. When Angelica Garcia hops on vocals on “Un Puente,” the scenery changes again. We’re not in the New York City lofts of yore, we’re on a goddamn beach, pupils dilated, bouncing from high BPM.
Let it Be Blue is a record about discovery, uncovering new parts of yourself, going there.
How many dance records start off with an acoustic track? Let it Be Blue does, it’s called “Normal People,” and it’s a Laurel Canyon-esque amuse bouche. If serious in intent, it's cheeky in placement at the beginning of a dance record. It’s like taking a first step in a new place before everything changes in weird and excellent ways. It’s kind of like a Pandora's Box. Open it up, the whole world shifts and transforms around you. There’s also a sense of melancholy and hope on the record. That’s where the title comes from. Instead of the finality of let it be, blue adds a feeling of acceptance that things will pass, that melancholy and tragedy are temporary. Mostly though, Let it Be Blue will make you really want to get down and dance.