Whoever writes the ultimate comprehensive biography of the entire history of New York City’s lower east side music scene should consider including a chapter about the friendship between Unsane’s Chris Spencer and Cop Shoot Cop’s Jim Coleman. The statute of limitations will allow previously unmentionable mischievous adventures and capers to be told alongside the more mundane stuff, like how the two bands shared an Avenue B rehearsal space in the early ‘90s, back before property values got insanely stupid and unmanageable for anyone outside of Ponzi scheme runners and the kids of foreign businessmen/dictators.
Assuming the aforementioned tome is in the works somewhere, it might put the theme of procrastination under the spotlight and make mention that it wasn’t until 2018 that Spencer and Coleman actually got around to working together, despite being more than passing ships in each other’s proximity for 30-some-odd years. That the agreement quickly brought in Coleman’s former Cop Shoot Cop bandmate and Swans touring drummer, Phil Puleo and fellow Swans dude, bassist Christopher Pravdica. This may be how these fellers understand the collision of scheduling stars, but for anyone else, it begs two questions: You see how easy that was? What the heck took you jokers so long?
With Spencer and Coleman co-captain-ing the ship, it’s not a surprise that Human Impact sounds like a cross between their former day gigs. Not rigidly, but in a way that you can hear stylistic characteristics of each without the overall result sounding too much like one or the other. Before the first minute is up of the opening track, “November” the bluesy twang of Spencer’s guitar is making nice with the elements of stratified noise and the oddball percussion patterns germane to Cop Shoot Cop. The riff burns slow and is driven by bass with staccato guitar parries and factory floor melodies combining to create a song analogous to picking at still-healing stitches and watching a slurry of body fluids seep from the corners of the wound. This is before the “Kashmir”-like crescendo during the choruses. And is it just me or with the distortion excised from his vocals, does Spencer sound remarkably like CSC’s Todd Ashley?
“E605” makes more dynamic use of the same combination of prior sounds, albeit on a more minimalist, soundtrack-like tip. The hypnotic bass and drums set an even-keeled, middle-distance pace while Coleman’s barrage of noises ranges from horror movie shocks to droning cybernetics. The way they balance the two bands’ sphere of influence in “Protestor” is simply awesome. A riff from the lost Unsane archives is hung between guitar and drill press punctuations before spinning off into a surprisingly melodic chorus and choral middle-eights.
What you quickly realise about Human Impact is how similar the songs are structured throughout. Theirs uses the A-B-A-B-C pattern rather religiously, even when the order of the day is raucous and raging (“Unstable”), streamlined and subdued (“Portrait”) or they’re cracking off with epic chord combinations (“Respirator”) and samples sculpted into orchestrated noise (“Consequences”). On the flip side of all that positivity, that the songs all generally stick to the same tempo regardless of the sonic pile-on can relegate this to background noise if your attention wavers in the slightest. Ultimately, however, this is an album that twists noise rock into a unique form. It may be more patterned and subtle than the clean-and-clear cut thunder usually associated with the genre, but the angst and anger are stirred by experience and a sense of adventure.