I’ve been a follower of Massimo Usai’s music for a long time, and it’s no surprise why. Here’s a man who has fronted a diverse number of projects, has received praise from the likes of Tommy Victor (Prong), recorded with Darren Travis (Sadus), and been part of studio sessions with the legendary group Killing Joke. Not only is he a competent multi-instrumentalist, but he is a confident behind-the-scenes man as well, versed in the roles of mixer and producer. Thus, it was no surprise to me to see him emerge once more with this new endeavor, Confrontational.
Confrontational has arisen from the ashes of noise rockers, Recs Of The Flesh, and dark-wave experimenters, Dahlia Indaco. Usai has focused on bringing together “a melodic approach to aggressively catchy tracks” through the use of “layers of synth, lush guitars, and pulsing beats.” What we’re left with is the debut EP, Done With You, a four track escape from the present into a world painted in post-apocalyptic colors. It’s no surprise, then, to see a cover of “Giving Ground” by The Sisterhood (a side project from The Sisters Of Mercy) make an appearance here, as the release would find a comfortable place as part of a soundtrack to many an 80s horror movie. Make no mistake, however, what Usai has made is far from a relic of the past; stagnant and stale. The music is vibrant, full, and undoubtedly addictive.
When I received this release, my music player auto-assigned its genre as “synthpop.” Honestly, I haven’t had much experience listening to bands in that genre, so I decided to go look up others that might fall within that spectrum. Artists such as Chromeo, Devo, and Owl City were on that long list. Each of these is largely different from the other, and Confrontational is just as far removed. The only thing that they have in common is the heavy use of synthesizer within their music, and even the way they incorporate that instrument differs from one to the next. While Chromeo might be best suited for a club environment, and Owl City has blossomed on the radio, and Devo…well, Devo is something to listen to in your basement, Confrontational is something to be felt.
I don’t know how to really describe it to you, but I’ll try. It’s like a building, burgeoning fog. It creeps in around your ankles and thickens until you can’t make out your feet any longer. Then it begins to rise. You’re nervous to move, because you don’t trust the ground to be there anymore. But the fog continues to rise, finally enveloping you. You sense a pulsing, as though your body is resonating with some unseen force. Then sparks of neon explode around you, catching fire to the air for a moment in time before dying off into darkness and being replaced by another in a myriad of color and design. Are you inside or outside? Are you awake or dreaming? Does it really even matter? And this is just the opening track.
Confrontational yearns to create an atmosphere as much as it desires to create songs with a killer bassline or entrancing melodies. And you know what? It succeeds on all fronts. These tracks are not simply one-off explorations into a chord progression, but pieces of a developing mood. Done With You is an introduction to a bigger story; the kind of music that weaves a fabric of notes together in order to move the listener to a new place of the composer’s imagination, and each of these songs is one step further towards that realization. Confrontational is a band that you have to let just carry you away, and I can’t wait to see where I end up.