Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect that Michael H is the bass player.
For those who don’t know, the bilge is lowest compartment on a ship, below the waterline, where the two sides meet at the keel — in other words, the worst place on the ship.
Living up to their name, Bilge Rat’s music feels filthy, skittish and dark, but all in the best way imaginable. They’ve combined multiple popular tropes of indie rock in 2018: noise, samples and mathy time signatures, to name a few.
For September, Radio 1190’s CD of the Month is “Pal” by Bilge Rat. Mike Kusek (guitar and vocals), Quinn Pirie (drums) and Michael H (bass) make up this trio of noisy indie rockers from New Haven, Conn.
Kusek’s vocal performance is as distinctive as it is impressive and will stick with you long after you turn off the music. Building on the foundation that Krill and Pile have laid with this aesthetic of music, Bilge Rat adds a voice that’s distinctly their own.
“Pal” doesn’t have a dull moment; it moves through highs and lows at expert pacing. Just as a listener starts to relax, they are surprised and jolted from complacency. In the past weeks, I’ve found that the record truly rewards multiple listens. The three instruments have parts that are intricately written and tightly interwoven. Somehow, the songs are both unsettling and satisfying.
Highlights for me include “Cupio,” “TI-83” and “Slacker.”
The first track, “Cupio,” starts with a meandering guitar line that is soon paired with a mimicking vocal melody. These phrases are interjected with quick bursts of distortion. The track becomes more and more active as it moves on, repeating this pattern and breaking into a noisy instrumental climax. This opener sets the tone of the record well, showing the listener what they can expect in the nine songs that follow.
“TI-83,” named after the Texas Instruments calculator, gives a fun nod to the math rock elements of the track. Switching between a variety of time signatures and fluctuating in tempo, the track has an extremely uneven feel that shifts the record into a more uneasy, almost creepy feeling for the rest of the album.
Aptly titled “Slacker” is slower than the rest of the record but is by no means tame. Starting with a melancholy guitar and vocal pairing, the track ebbs and flows between this calm and the noise-filled energy present on the rest of the record. It is a great example of the range of emotion and tempo that Bilge Rat can succeed at.
Since the record first came out, I’ve noticed their monthly Spotify listener count has more than doubled. This isn’t necessarily an indicator of a band’s success, but I’m glad they’ve garnered some popularity with this record and I can only imagine they’ll continue to gain traction. “Pal” is one of my favorite releases of 2018, and Bilge Rat is definitely a group to keep your eye on.
Askari is Radio 1190’s music director. Read more reviews: coloradodaily.com/columnists