"OUR MUSIC'S becoming more mechanical, dark, and introverted," says Brian Case from a sub-zero Chicago. It's the same voice that yelps proclamations on Disappears' records, just less frantic—not quite detached, just present.
From the band's emergence with the release of Lux in 2010 and its follow-up Guider a year later, the Chicago quartet has stalked the dividing line between rock and robotic. Those two salvos engender an obvious krautrock fascination. But it was clear that the band was always more.
"We're more trying to make the organic instruments sound electronic than introducing electronics," Case says.
Pinging up and down, Disappears' motorik backbone immediately parallels technological innovation, summoning a vision of troublesome sci-fi futures. It's a literary thing the band is engaged with, even if they don't all sit around and talk Isaac Asimov.
"I'm reading a William Gibson book right now," Case says, laughing to himself. "We're all interested in science fiction. A lot of the weird Philip K. Dick predictions are coming true. And the stories are happening around us."
While we haven't yet developed a cyborg class, Disappears' 15-minute "Revisiting" makes such a future seem inevitable, as it ripples with repetition. Disappears' first pair of studio releases, including that extended rumination, were inseparable from the onset. The albums' covers are even negative images of each other, black or white typeface set against the inverse solid-color background. It was a purposeful approach, says Case, and it's made the band's subsequent sonic developments easy to signal with album artwork.
After rapturously pulsing through their early recordings, Disappears began to explore gothic territories on Pre Language, the album's cover an extreme close-up of a face rendered in black and white. Familiar rhythms dissipated, uncertainty unraveled, and Case's staccato yelling became monotone moaning. Steely minimalism pervades the band's Kone EP from last year. And the bad vibes get worse on Era, the ensemble's latest full-length. Its closer, "New House," is terrifying.
"I've always preferred music that was darker," Case says. "I think it just sort of evolved that way. And adding a new drummer every couple of records has given us the ability to escape a formula."
As they've soldered together an intimidating Panopticon of a back catalog, Disappears work in a field of aural pluralities, enabling any sort of dark passenger to hitch a ride for at least a few songs. Where the band's headed, they don't quite know. But the ensemble's set to record another disc this year, Case says, which means Disappears will have a refreshed view of that rusted-out future soon enough.