SCREENSAVER- Expressions Of Interest LP
'Expressions of Interest' is the debut album from Melbourne/Naarm post-punk group screensaver. Sonically, the 10 track album is rich and detailed, and pays homage to its era of inspiration (late 70s-mid 80s post-punk and new wave) with gripping vocals, dissonant guitar, melodic basslines, washes of synths and motorik drumming. Engineered by Julian Cue alongside band member Chris Stephenson and recorded over multiple studio sessions between 2020-2021.
The album opens with the ominously titled 'Body Parts', an immediately arresting song that showcases the bands penchant for blending classic post-punk elements, leaning into a sound somewhere between the Banshees and Protomartyr. Krystal Maynard's opening line "suffering everyday / over time we disintegrate" is brutal and affecting, and this largely sets the tone for what’s to follow. Maynard's vocal style is equal parts haunted and commanding, her lyrics exploring themes of social degradation, frustration and repetition, whilst exposing the fragility of our bodies/minds on the whole.
Maynard doubles down on these themes in the frenetic second track, 'No Movement'. Despite the title, the song actually exhibits constant movement, with bassist Giles Fielke providing a pulsating and infectious bassline, the perfect companion to James Beck's machine-like drumming. Guttural organ tones swim under overdriven guitar, jagged and intense. Additional textures and sound effects are used percussively to embellish the dynamics, creating a feverish atmosphere with some Martin Hannett like flourishes. The album takes a surprising turn into electronic driven krautrock on track three with 'Buy, Sell, Trade' - a rollicking piece of danceable ephemera, dominated by swirling synth sounds and punctuated with electronics reminiscent of Sparks/Moroder collaborations. Chris Stephenson's masterful guitar work begins with Greg Sage-esque determination before a crescendo into a lush Frippertronics outro. 'Buy/Sell/Trade' demonstrates the group's ability to underpin their post-punk protocols in favour of fluidity, and tap into other genres whilst maintaining their edge.
'MEDS' transports us back to the foundation established on 'Body Parts', a gothy piece, full of tribal toms and dirge-y synths. Industrial punk rock nearly swallowed whole by the keys in the middle and slowly building back to complimentary guitar and vocal hooks. It's from this point in the album that the band let's their other influences rise to the surface, as they explore touches of EDM on 'Static State' - a brutal, death-disco style track, Krystal Maynard's lead synth and gloomy vocal complimenting the pounding drums and dub-esque bass line culminating in a track worthy of the dancefloor.
Opening side two we have 'Skin', beginning with a solid and simple backbeat, James Beck’s post-punk percussion provides a steady and minimal framework for the rest of the band to colour in with great depth and detail. Giles Fielke’s bass guitar wobbles brilliantly leading the verse melody, whilst Chris Stephenson’s guitar drives the chorus that folds neatly in on itself. Krystal Maynard’s opening line “You’ve made your bed / Now you must sleep in it / Remove your clothes / Feel your skin against it” is provocative, exploring human vulnerabilities on the inside and outside. “The well runs dry / You act surprised” the climactic line of the chorus is simple in its metaphor but emotionally confronting.
In ‘Attention Economy’, Krystal Maynard once again providing the listener with a cold and somewhat abstracted commentary on the mundane with lines such as “A static scene / In an empty room / Return to the void so soon” and “Well dressed people with good intentions / Out on the sidewalk looking for attention”. Maynard is flexible with her lyrical style, and knows how and when to lend her voice to the greater backdrop of the composition. ‘Attention Economy’ has an almost Kraftwerkian structure - repetitious, but engaging with its constant tom driven beat, lush synth lines and minimal bass tones.
Just when you thought things had slowed down, screensaver ramp things right back up again with ‘Overnight Low’ - a no holds barred thumper. Giles Fielke underpins the hard-edged sound with his bassline, keeping things smooth and tight. It brings to mind a hybrid of PiL’s ‘Annalisa’ and Wire’s ‘Two People In a Room.’
Before you can catch your breath, we have ‘Regular Hours’ - another industrial track, and perhaps the sister song to ‘Static State’ heard earlier on side one. Seething electronic drum samples cut through an abyss of growling synths, Giles Fielke hanging up the bass temporarily to accompany Krystal Maynard on synth duties. Chris Stephenson isn’t far behind, his versatility as a guitarist now well established over the course of the record, offering giallo-inspired tones which are chilling and gothic.
The album closes with the fittingly titled ‘Soft Landing’, literally bringing the listener back down...softly. The song is heavy on atmos, and resembles the aesthetics previously encountered on ‘Attention Economy’ a few tracks earlier. Despite the electronic elements throughout the album, this song is the first to have a programmed drum machine beat and its inclusion here is very welcomed. Eerie high-pitched synth strings swirl around Krystal Maynard’s haunting vocal melodies, her delivery of lines like “Seventeen days too late / Now it’s gone without a trace” bring the LP to a natural close with verdant tones akin to Eno’s Another Green World.
‘Expressions of Interest” was recorded at various locations across Melbourne, with a handful of songs being captured before the start of the Covid pandemic in January 2020. With the recording timeline being drastically altered, the band shifted focus to work on what would become their first single ‘Strange Anxiety’, throughout the first months of the Melbourne 2020 lockdown.