Membrane- Reflect Your Pain

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Saturday, May 30, 2015

French noise rock band Membrane has been in existence for fifteen years now, but their fifth full length Reflect Your Pain is my first time coming across them. My interest was piqued upon learning that their last full length was a split with Sofy Major, another French band that caught my attention back in 2013, so it made sense to dive right into the material to find what they had to offer. What I discovered was an intriguing combination that takes the jagged edges and lumbering riffs of 90s noise rock and injects some post hardcore and a healthy dose of sludge into lengthier songs that provide a good deal of twists and turns. It’s the type of album that seems to stand out more when taken as a whole rather than in individual parts, but Membrane is still likely to appeal to anyone with a taste for this noisier, dense type of material.

With six songs spanning a little over thirty five minutes in length total, it’s clear that Reflect Your Pain is going for longer drawn out noise riffs rather than the sharp angular attack that is common for the genre. That’s not to say that there isn’t some of the angularness and time changes present on this release, but Membrane seems to be going for a slightly different sound from the norm and it works to their advantage. There’s additional density to these songs that provide a much thicker, lumbering sound that reminds me of sludge as well as some riffs that channel more of a post hardcore vibe. The instrumentalists work with this mix of styles to create layers that expand over the course of each song and hit the listener with a mix of ferocity and somber soundscapes. At times the methodical build-ups that are drenched in distortion and a darker tonality reminded me of European acts like Amenra or Celeste, only with 90s noise rock serving as the base. What helps the material considerably are the strong production values, which makes the instrumental work hit hard without losing some of the finer details in the process. Admittedly given the way that the riffs expand over each song there is a good deal of similarity between each piece and not quite as many individual sections that truly stood out on initial listens, but the seamless flow between each track and heavy hitting moments still make Reflect Your Pain a strong listen from beginning to end.

The instrumentals may head beyond the standard noise rock template, but Membrane’s vocals are where there’s a bit more of the traditional influence on display. Two of the band members provide vocals on this release, and the main pitch is a rawer high pitched scream/yell that has just the right amount of abrasiveness and grit. There’s a decent amount of interplay between the two vocalists, resulting in a high/low switch off that fills out the sound quite a bit. For the majority of the release Membrane sticks with this style, but do choose to switch things up a bit on “Breath” and closer “Lonesome” which adds some much softer singing into the mix. These sections are provided by a guest singer named Flo and she has a more somber, eerier pitch that adds to the dark and dreary tone of the instrumentation before the harsher ranges kick in again. It’s a nice curveball that’s added towards the end and fits with the overall style the group is going for on this record perfectly, grabbing your full attention all over again just as the layers of sludge and noise start to lull you into a daze.

I’m definitely a fan of the standard noise rock sound, but at this point in their career Membrane seems to be pushing beyond those boundaries and bringing in additional influences. Although there are moments that do tend to blur together over the course of Reflect Your Pain that make it better experienced as a whole, the rawness and darker tonality that gives off more of a sludge sound continued to draw me in for additional listens. Whether you’re a fan of the 90s AmRep style or like the darker, unsettling tonality of sludge this is a group that should come across as quite appealing.

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