Arriving one year-to-the-day after the enigmatic band’s Lurid Orange debut, Blue Ruin sees Miscellen further solidifying its distinctive brand of post-rock fury. Sludgy desert blues and psychedelic rock atmospheres coalesce on the album’s 11 tracks, and while the electronic elements are still present, they are somewhat more subdued on Blue Ruin, resulting in a more organic tonal palette that serves to strengthen the band’s sonic identity.
For example, “Chemical Bonds” begins slowly and dreamily like something out of a David Lynch movie, before the explosive exchanges of Jason Sevanick’s boisterous guitar and Tyler Wolosin’s impassioned wailing, the gritty bass tone injecting a dash of dusty hue to an otherwise coldly monochromatic tableau. The same can be said of “EDIAC,” Sevanick and Rick Furr trading off riffs and solos amid shrieking feedback and noisy distortion that seems to sink its claws into the listener’s psyche, seemingly unhinged against the eerie and almost mocking melody of Daisy Steinhardt’s vocals on ““Scream All You Want,” while “Aphotique” sees China Blue Fish alternating between English and French atop fluttering viola and saccharine bass arpeggios that anchor the listener in what could be a desert rendition of a hazy number from the Weimar Republic. Other songs like “No Saints Allowed” with its grimy thrusting synth, “Sneer” with trippy drum breakdowns and pensive violins underscoring Stuart Brooke’s throaty spoken word reminiscent of Edward Ka-Spel in The Tear Garden or The Legendary Pink Dots, and the appropriately chilled and cinematic tones of “Cold Comfort” yield some of the more industrialized moments that recall Sevanick’s and Furr’s work in Mindless Faith, all providing some of the satisfying flourishes on Blue Ruin. “Happy Ending” is almost sardonic in its titling, the repetitions of “I know a girl from Baltimore” somehow feeling like a bitter lament against a haunted ambience of city street noise, static TV, and bluesy guitar riffs, :3Lon’s vocals somehow sounding like the late Chris Cornell trapped in a steel box as China Blue Fish’s accompaniment hovers ghostly and ethereal.
Certain textures in Miscellen’s sound seem evocative of the noisy excursions of Queens of the Stone Age, Filth Pig era MINISTRY, and even Mogwai, but imbued with a more accessible edge akin to Smashing Pumpkins at their grungiest. The sonic diversity that defined Lurid Orange isn’t less prevalent on Blue Ruin as much as it has been honed to a more direct and focused effort… no small feat, especially after a full year in the midst of a global crisis. Miscellen seems to have effectively defined its sound on this record, even further differentiating it from the musicians’ more familiar outlets.