Weeping Rat proves that post-punk is still actively slurring in the twenty-first century with their debut album Tar. The Australian trio has brought together a multitude of sonic perspectives that deliver a certain familiarity through surprises. Beyond the B-movie atmosphere, vintage drum machines, and apathetic drawl of Jacob Rolfe, uniquely vital guitar-work and electronics place Tar in surreal dimensions that strangely fit together. With albums colored in red, black, and white, Weeping Rat present their gothic worldview. The lyrical themes of despair and loathing find themselves wrapped in a fitting death-shroud of cold wave leanings.
Weeping Rat was originally the solo project of Rolfe, formed in 2012. For this album, Rofle is joined by two others who mask his growling vocals with synths, electronics, and guitar riffs. Tar follows a set of smaller releases including a duet of EPs, Fractured Zones and Forced Vision. Despite the newness of Weeping Rat, this record presents itself as a mature and original dive into the darkest periphery of post-punk. The music of Weeping Rat sits firmly in the experimental camp, but maintains an atmosphere both danceable and depressing. As they describe themselves, Weeping Rat is a “deathly melody in many shapes and forms.” These shapes are eclectic, owing to the artists’ desire to keep their sound interesting. With Tar, they succeed in their endeavor.
From the first few minutes of the record, in “Silk in the Water,” a bass and guitar sway with the sounds of eerie samples. Rolfe’s voice, thickly coated in vibrating effects, cuts through the instrumentation to form the focus of the piece. This song is admittedly the most traditionally deathrock sounding. The tracks that follow build a novel sound with the attributes of a wide variety of influences.
Only a single track does not have Rolfe’s apathetic growl. “Still on It’s Way,” an industrial rave nightmare, pushes forward with synth-praising power that could perhaps even fit a power-noise context. It’s in this section of the album that the act takes the most experimental leaps. “Satan’s Bazaar” summons Moroccan mysteries and classical guitar to paint a surreal journey. In another feat of incorporation, Weeping Rat brings post-rock guitars into “Coil.” The reverb-heavy and mellifluous drone is complemented by a drum machine, synths, and an echo of a singing voice behind Rolfe’s deep elocution.
As the record progresses, Rolfe’s lyrics become more smothered in shoegazing layers as if the strength of his voice has been drained in his efforts. His delivery in these tracks is more personal and introspective than the showy presentations in “Illusion (Void)” or “Come to Consciousness.” This comes to a head in “Funeral Head” where a repeated phrase becomes a psychedelic spiral of throat-singing.
The slow oppression felt in the music is equally represented in the lyrics. In the string-built “Ara Ish In,” Rolfe sings “Bury me in your coffin / Amongst faceless dead” with a surrendered romantic lean. “Deal With the Devil” repeats the refrain “I killed myself and I cleared my head last night.” Those words which can be picked out of the murky compositions form thoroughly dark images like “baptize me in a pool of gasoline” in “Come to Consciousness.”
The album was originally released late in 2014 on Damned Gates, an Australian label managed by the artist on synths and electronics for this release. Tar was re-released in the United States with bonus tracks through Handmade Birds. Of course, both feature the red, white, and black color scheme of all Weeping Rat`s releases. This time, the cover shows a vase of wilting flowers and rope—an appropriately minimal, symbolic scene.
Tar is a beautifully gothic exploration of hopeless gloom guided by Rolfe’s oration. It’s catchy, psychedelic, and as bleak as anything else I’ve heard in recent years. Despite the long history of deathrock that inspired it, Weeping Rat has pushed the genre further, incorporating electronic elements that drench the already sobbing guitars with agony. It can only be hoped that this act will continue on their crooked rise from the underground, by digging deeper into the unreal soundscapes laid out in Tar.
01) Silk in the Water
02) Illusion (Void)
03) Come to Consciousness
04) Satan’s Bazaar
05) Still on It’s Way
07) Leather Wrapped Rabbit Hole
08) Transparency of Two
09) Light of the Moon
10) Empty Hearse
11) Funeral Train
12) Deal with the Devil
13) Ara Ish In