In a feat of pure wonder, Brooklyn-based quartet Screens have managed to evade the magnetic lure of musical stagnation with their latest album, Dead House. Without adhering too closely to any one genre tag, they pull bits and pieces of influence from “pop,” “psychedelic,” “noise,” “post-punk,” and “post-rock” when and where they need it, incorporating all of these musical styles expertly without falling victim to the confining qualities of subgenres.
Diverse influences, textures, and techniques number many on Dead House, providing soundscapes which bubble up in every journalist’s head a steady stream of descriptive adjective-and-noun combinations. The album begins gently with “Dead House,” in which a simple piano track becomes slowly swallowed up by by interference. “Saturdays” follows, exploding into raw, heavy beats which conjur images of drum circles. Here, vocalist Breck Brunson’s hard-to-pinpoint vocals are introduced, in the form of a distant falsetto which descends into incomprehensible blathering.
Uncommon visuals come to mind throughout the duration of Dead House. With its aggressive siren-like cycles, “Man Down” provides a soundtrack for one to evacuate a burning warehouse, and piano-heavy “Radio Tabaloapa” may be what a drowning individual hears moments before being sucked into a beckoning underworld. One of the most traditionally accessible tracks, the album single “Pop Logic” contains chiming synth progressions which meld circus parade and funeral march into one bittersweet event.
In a big picture sense, Screens are remarkably distinct — as there are not many bands like them around — but the release is distinct within itself as well. Every track seems like an experiment in Screens doing whatever the fuck they want. Dead House seems uninhibited by tradition, inspired by what it is to create art in the moment. When one listens to the tracks individually, out of context, one can’t help but ask what captive audience Screens can possibly hope to attract with their schizophrenic nature. In context, though, cohesion lies in the album’s non-cohesion — which is truly contradictory, but only when left undefined. Though perhaps thematically linked, the tracks on Dead House are so stylistically different from one another that they are bonded by their dissimilarities.
Screens are not a band made for genre tags. In a way, they transcend them by incorporating so many of them. Dead House has a sophisticated and finely-plotted arc, with atypical songwriting. It is not a shallow album full of singles waiting to be individually hyped, but art rock for those who love organic creation, birthed from a desire to experiment and a penchant for exploration.
Despite its hollow name, Dead House feels like a real, living entity, constantly stirring darkness within itself, while maintaining a facade of lightness. All complexities aside, the prevailing simple sentiment is this: engulf Dead House in its entirety.