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Viking's Choice: Kowloon Walled City, 'Backlit'

Kowloon Walled City in the studio.
Kowloon Walled City in the studio.

Kowloon Walled City's bummer jams are bona fide: Just hit play and proceed to heave your body in sadness. But on its third album, Grievances, the San Francisco noise-rock band isn't always obvious in how it chooses to be heavy.

In the first single, "Backlit," the band dials down the sludgy distortion in favor of more repetition. Loose strings rattle violently in riffs that aren't so much slow as weighted. Kowloon Walled City seems more aware of its space, rooting inside a shimmering cymbal, a throbbing bassline or a rare squeal of feedback instead of overpowering its sound with noise or studio compression. After guitarist Scott Evans shouts the devastating line, "You walk in defeated / Wear out your weakness," the guitar solo unwinds into a nervous, Unwound-ian abstraction that works out its catharsis in bent strings on the verge of bursting.

Grievances comes out Oct. 9 on Neurot (CD) and Gilead Media (LP).

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