By Ian Kenworthy

Anyone worrying about A.I. making music should take note; no computer is going to make anything like Sugar Horse. Built upon piles of effects pedals, their sound draws on post-rock, black metal, doom and that filth you find growing under the kitchen sink. It’s a challenging, exciting, human sound best described as ‘existential dread’ that brings to mind Isis or Oathbreaker kissing My Bloody Valentine in a graveyard. Their new EP ‘Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico’ continues digging around in these dark, unsettling, spaces and creates a sound that’s not unlike squinting out of an abyss toward the cosmos.

The band’s 2021 debut album ‘The Live Long After’ received acclaim. On that record, they explored different avenues and guitar-effect soundscapes in unexpected ways, accompanied by counterintuitive patterns of screaming, bellowing or singing. It felt like it shouldn’t work, but the trick – the art – was layering two unusual choices alongside two very different unusual choices and fitting it all together like a jigsaw. This EP follows a similar template, albeit in shorter form, but don’t think for a moment that it’s not a worthwhile creation, or that they’re playing it safe. For starters, it’s one song conveniently split into six parts for ‘ease of streaming’ which is both extremely helpful and wonderfully cynical. The only way to get the most from the EP – the only way it really works – is as one extended piece that changes shape over the course of eighteen minutes; from a groaning acapella, through doom, thrash and gloom to a quiet, glittering climax.

Naturally, the really interesting things happen during its middle three movements, but there’s an undeniable tension that builds up throughout. The affecting croon on ‘III – Consequences’ gives the EP a glimpse of strange beauty before it dives into ‘IV – Comma’ where the gravity of slow metal-style chugging changes the tone completely. Just when you find your footing, it collapses into a solo that sounds like a guitar is being violently tortured. With its unsettling tone and striking squeals, it’s an undoubted highlight. However, it’s the abusive blend of feedbacky noises and screams that surface on ‘V-New’ which makes for a particularly harsh culmination of the main segment. As it fades away, ‘VI-Mexico’ drifts toward near-silence only to close out the experience with a slow doom outro that might seem a little extraneous but is required to fully dissipate the tension.

Sugar Horse have created an EP that’s so measured, so sure of itself, it’s only when you consider what it’s doing that you realise how good it is. In many ways, it feels like a tug-of-war between different creative impulses that sometimes overpower each other but never overbalance.  ‘Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico’ is a slow-motion tidal wave, twisting and crushing everything in its path; let it wash you away.


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