Review: HEALTH – DISCO 4 :: PART II
National Music Reviews
DISCO 4 :: PART II
Loma Vista Recordings
HEALTH = Perturbator + Nine Inch Nails + Dog
HEALTH’s DISCO albums, beginning in 2008, have comprised remixes more than anything. DISCO 4:: PART I was surprising because, despite the usual amount of time passing between their 2019 studio album and the following 2020 DISCO album, it was made of completely new songs that felt canonically HEALTH. Taken as a whole, DISCO 4 :: PART II is unexpectedly HEALTH’s latest evolution.
“In the past each HEALTH LP has been accompanied by a corresponding remix record,” said the band in a September 2020 press release. “This time, despite being called DISCO 4, in the interest of continuity, we offer you a collection of original collaborations with artists we admire. Also, FUCK 2020.”
DISCO 4 parts one and two are most exciting for those of us who gnaw on HEALTH like a binky. After two studio albums and three remix albums that all chased a similar high, these two DISCO releases consistently harness the strengths of HEALTH and their collaborators, couching the work in HEALTH’s familiar soundscape while deviating in interesting ways. It’s sick to hear Ada Rook scream over a genuine, HEALTH-level production in “MURDER DEATH KILL,” but it’s also kind of an expected pairing. Even “MASS GRAVE,” featuring Soccer Mommy, harkens back to the way Purity Ring or A Little Loud would remix vocals on old DISCOs. PART II opens with my favorite track, the Poppy collab “DEAD FLOWERS.” Poppy uses both sides of that vocal spectrum, airing out her voice into the track then letting Jake Duzik’s voice interlude with his bassier, still-light signature tone. Finally, Poppy crashes into a painful scream that hits insanely hard for how drowned it is in noise.
What you like of this album will depend on which part of the HEALTH soundscape appeals to you. The band bridles Trent Reznor’s voice through their droning to give Reznor a classic, vibrant Nine Inch Nails feel. 100 Gecs recontextualize Duzsik’s voice with a dubstep drop that wrings an early 2010s sound out of HEALTH’s intensity before hyper-evolving into familiar gecs. I could see someone hating one track and loving another, but it’s unlikely a fan of heavy music wouldn’t connect with at least one track here.
HEALTH’s soundscape here is, as always, easy to get lost in and paste yourself onto, a murky and reflective bog of a pond in which to look at yourself. The lyrics are vague, and Duzsik’s voice works magic within its range, but to be a HEALTH fan is to share their obsession with chasing a particular intensity and mood that take less and less of a particular shape the more you immerse yourself in it all. It’s hard to identify who or what HEALTH is ever about, and that’s part of the appeal here, too.
What’s most interesting to see in DISCO 4 :: PART I and II is HEALTH adapting to a music streaming landscape more likely to algorithmically put a new collab album in front of you than a remix album. And frankly, thank god! I have loved HEALTH since their score for the 2012 game Max Payne 3, and it has been 10 years of music that is, admittedly, all cut from the same cloth. PART II continues PART I’s trajectory of showing a stranger and sharper vision of HEALTH we hadn’t seen until now, bringing the kind of commitment to developing the band’s identity that has been more typical of their original studio albums.
DISCO 4 is incredibly welcome after 2019’s Vol. 4: Slaves of Fear, which was excellent, but felt no more transcendent than 2015’s masterful Death Magic. I am done trying to convince people to love those albums. I’m ready to bang the drum of DISCO 4. –Parker Scott Mortensen
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