Preoccupations are closing out 2016 with a video of epic proportions, unleashing the visual accompaniment for “Memory.” The song, which features Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade, is the cornerstone track from their recently released critically acclaimed self-titled album. “Memory” is over 11 minutes of sonic excellence, a track which the New York Times wrote is “…a suitelike excursion through bewilderment, disillusion, alienation and entropy” while Consequence of Sound described it as “a swirling mass of moving parts” split “equally between mechanical clanging and buzzing, fuzzed out guitar work and soaring heart-on-sleeve indie piano runs.” Stereogum simply say, “Memory” is “an 11-minute gracefully unspooling meditation.”
NPR have premiered what they describe as a short film writing the band’s own story could almost be portrayed here “It’s about watching a loved one lose their mental grip… but will strike a chord with anyone who has felt themselves slipping off the path or been suspicious about whether they can trust their own mind. The first half is romantic and structured, swelling into a climax of drums and guitar. Then the tension evaporates, leaving us with six beautiful minutes of peaceful synths and echoes.”
Directed by award winning director Kevan Funk who tells NPR the story was loosely based off the story of Mohammed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor who, after years of harassment by police, lit himself on fire in December 2010, in the middle of traffic. It was an act of protest that some say triggered the Arab Spring.
Funk explains “I don’t mean to sound dark, but there’s something poetic about a fire burning inside someone so intensely that one day, it actually physically manifested,” Funk goes further saying “You ask yourself, how much pain can we take? How much control do we have?”
Funk collaborated with the band’s Michael Wallace who stars in the video With the song being about the loss of mind, the short takes us on a journey as we watch someone get lost inside his own head and gradually lose the ability to define what’s real from what has been constructed. Matt Flegel from Preoccupations told NPR it took them two years to finish “Memory” as the song and the band endured several iterations. The final version feels appropriately epic. “It’s an even keel followed by mania and depression,” he says, characterizing mania as dancing rhythms and depression as drone effects. Dancing, droning. Dancing, droning”.
Preoccupations received high praise from critics here in North American and around the world with many marveling at the band’s ability to blend synths and samplers with post punk guitars, creating a musical world which is dark and moody and yet beautiful all in one moment. Pitchfork sums up the album most succinctly writing “the power of Preoccupations lies not in some victory but in the battle.”
The band are finishing up an extensive world tour but are already looking to more live dates in 2017, including Primavera Sound Festival which was announced yesterday. The live show adds another dimension to the songs and has to be experienced. The Guardian in a recent live review wrote “It’s a blisteringly intense form of release.” More North American dates will be announced in the new year.
Kevan Funk is an award winning filmmaker, who’s work has screened and won awards at various prestigious festivals around the world. His debut feature, Hello Destroyer, premiered at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival to acclaimed reviews. His debut short, A Fine Young Man, premiered at TIFF and won the Grand Jury Prix at the Melbourne International Film Festival. Kevan’s short films Yellowhead and Bison both premiered at TIFF, the former being awarded a Special Jury Prize, and both were named to Canada’s Top Ten in their respective years. Kevan’s short Destroyer, created through the TIFF Talent Lab, was runner-up for the RBC Emerging Filmmaker Award.
Acclaim for Preoccupations:
“While far from a feel-good summer jam, “Anxiety” is a little closer to the hazy, lo-fi meditations of 2010’s Public Strain than the creeping nausea of 2015’s Viet Cong…. “Anxiety” is surprisingly relaxed and well-adjusted. “I’m not here purely for the sake of breathing,” he vows, “I am wide awake.” And just like that, Preoccupations have written their own mantra.” Pitchfork, Best New Track
“Unlike its predecessor, Preoccupations was crafted with less pressure and more time. While there’s still plenty of motorik drive, there are more synth-y flavors, such as the record’s magnum opus, the three-movement suite “Memory,” which includes a soaring guest appearance from Dan Boeckner…a shimmering, New Order-esque midsection and a hypnotic, ambient coda.” Billboard
“They’ve created a startling document of anxiety and mental exhaustion. It’s beautiful art, and hopefully it’s a next step toward the peace so sought after throughout the record.” Consequence of Sound
“There is a stout cohesiveness that gives Preoccupations a feeling of completion and resolute artistic confidence and its reverberations mount with close and repeated listens.” Under the Radar
“Preoccupations kicks off the record with an ominous surge in “Anxiety,” setting a tone that builds and never lets up for the span of this exhilarating album. The things that first drew me to Viet Cong’s self-titled 2015 debut are still here, but this album shows vast growth and advancement from there, especially lyrically.” Patterson Hood of Drive By Truckers for The Talkhouse
“Preoccupations makes strides to shore up Preoccupations’ identity without losing the crucial spontaneity of their debut.” Pop Matters
“Preoccupations put out one of the best albums of last year under the name Viet Cong, and sadly, sometimes it felt like the controversy around their band name was talked about more than the music itself. Now they’re back with their first album since ditching the Viet Cong moniker, and it’s clear from the music itself that this band still deserves to be heard.” Brooklyn Vegan
“The new album continues along the same path as Viet Cong, juxtaposing pop hooks with eerie, gothic accents and a distorted yet danceable aesthetic. It’s a heavy album made accessible through many moments of melodic levity. Maintaining that progress from their previous album and being able to build upon something they had already created only made their pivot toward a new identity all the more delicate.” FLOOD Magazine
“The darkness is all very real, ladies and gentlemen; anxiety approaches and monotony kills. But with rhythms this punishing and hooks that slowly reveal themselves like the ones here, maybe the darkness isn’t all bad..” Pretty Much Amazing
“With Preoccupations putting their past name of Viet Cong behind them while holding onto their wicked sound, “Degraded” is a foreboding track spliced together with hissing synth and dark guitars.” Paste Magazine
“With their controversial original band name behind them, Preoccupations (formerly Viet Cong) are endeavoring to move forward with new music. Their latest is “Degraded,” a super-dark slice of post-punk animated by wheezing synthesizers and tightly wound guitar riffs.” SPIN
“Viet Cong are proving a name change doesn’t change a good sound. The post-punk quartet are rallying behind their sophomore self-titled album with their new moniker, Preoccupations, speaking for itself. On “Degraded,” they dive into the vintage post-punk sound, striking similarities to Joy Division and other icons. It’s the perfect song to help you get through the week.” Nerdist