Horses in the Abbatoir – TRAITRS (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

After the drifting, haunting ambience of opener Sea Howl, TRAITRS move on to their signature sound, and Mouth Poison is the perfect showcase of their heady blend of Cure-esque, dark alt-rock elegance, more modern digital dreamscapes and electronic adventure.

Perhaps what flavours the album more than any conscious sonic decisions by Sean-Patrick Nolan and Shawn Tucker, the duo behind the name, is the place that they were at personally and mentally when they wrote it. As the band’s profile rose, they simultaneously found themselves surrounded by a rush of emotive issues to try to juggle, not least of all personal loss, depression and exhaustion.

But, having managed to find their way back to the creative heart of the band, they found that the journey had yielded a set of songs that dealt with ultimate highs and crippling lows, situations that were either life-affirming and seemingly the end of the line. And it is the tension built of such extreme feelings, the clashes of emotions, the ebb and flow of sonic mood swing caused by such experiences, that gives the music its strength and sensation, depth and diversity, its personal drama and also universally relatable attraction.

Prostitution is a collection of strident beats and chiming shards of music, stygian darkness and cinematic highs, Oh, Ballerina moves from a lone cry of anguish in the night to a driving, clinical electronica swathed groove and From This Old Mirror heads into a slightly more alt-dance realm, a sort of dystopian disco dirge for after The Fall.

Some music of this ilk…alt-rock, post-punk, goth, darkwave, call it what you will… can feel like an exercise in fashion and nostalgia. But not Horses in the Abattoir. This is the sound of artists finding themselves on the brink and having the strength to turn those dark thoughts and paralysing feelings into song rather than letting themselves be overwhelmed by the enormity of it all. And after all, isn’t that the point of art?

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