Horse Culture are a band from Blacksburg, Virginia that make heavy, tumultuous indie rock, what label Furious Hooves describe as “Southern Gothic Punk.” This brings to mind rolling storm clouds and midnight rituals safety-pinned together with a razor-edged punk raggedness, with an added element of that Oh Rose-style demonic pop thing which can only be a positive.
Opening track ‘Ruins’ slides from mirage-like serenity to epic, stormy peaks, McKagen’s vocals the only element that remains on something resembling an even keel—acting as the song’s focal point, it’s eye of calm. The title track is altogether more hectic, veering with manic energy as McKagen wails and cries, the vocal anchor cut with a maelstrom awaiting.
‘Augustine’ is another example of how Horse Culture build dense, shadowy punk rock from sparse and spacious beginnings. The track begins in relative hush, but the somnambulant rise eventually tears right down the middle, unleashing a squall of guitar and pounded drums. ‘Witchy’ on the other hand has a post-punk schlock, kicking and twitching like a possessed body as the lyrics speak of pacts with dark forces.
“You know the wind whispers
it hollows your bones
at night when you’re trying to sleep,
that God won’t touch you
but I will hold you dear,
i tried to love you the best that I could
your floating weary dying body
the devil’s at the window
he’s calling you closer to him”
‘Waxy’ is short and oddly catchy, Hawks adding distinctively deadpan vocals during the tumbling chorus. But it’s with ‘Texaco’ that Horse Culture hit their peak. The band save the best for last, a smoky, shadowy Gothic pop song that builds and builds before ending with a thunderous crescendo, McKagen’s vocals whipping up into a desperate frenzy.
The track is a suitably heavy and imposing end to an album that has a very real weight. House seems able to conjure its own atmospheric patterns, unseen forces called forth from homebrew hexes, leaving the listener dazed and amazed, like a torn page that’s been swirled around and left strewn on the ground.
You can get House now on Smoky Haze cassette via Furious Hooves.