By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Politically charged Atlanta-based post-punk band Algiers delivers dark, gospel-influenced tunes from the crew’s latest Matador Records release There Is No Year when it headlines the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco Monday night.
Though the members behind the uniquely modern gospel-punk outfit have been working together for nearly a decade, the group has roots that go back even further. Guitarist Lee Tesche and bassist Ryan Mahan were childhood friends and had already played in a number Atlanta bands since their teens when singer/multi-instrumentalist and friend Franklin James Fischer became a regular fixture at their live shows in the late 2000s.
The trio began collaborating, crafting a sound that touched on the synth-powered proto-industrial minimalism of Suicide, the brooding intensity of Nick Cave’s bands the Birthday Party and the Bad Seeds and the dub-influenced experimentation of PIL touched with Motown soul. Algiers aired it’s first sampling of gospel-soul-meets-post-punk-ferocity in 2012 with the release of the single “Blood” on Atlanta-based label Double Phantom Records.
With Fischer’s soulful voice and impassioned delivery taking center stage amid soundscapes that mixed howling guitars, industrial/hip-hop beats and ghostly vocal samples, the single attracted the attention of indie powerhouse Matador Records. The band’s self-titled debut was released in the summer of 2015, dazzling reviewers and fans with its kaleidoscopic swirl of influences and feverish social commentary that had some likening the group to a post-punk version of Public Enemy.
The group would bring on former Bloc Party drummer Matt Tong before heading out on the road to promote the album, opening for modern post-punk outfit Interpol before bringing their savage, cathartic live shows to clubs on both sides of the Atlantic on their first headlining tour.
The group would maintain a busy schedule of live dates at European festivals as it began recording its sophomore album last year. Working with Bristol-based Portishead member Adrian Utley as producer, the band members began piecing together their disparate ideas into new songs, all informed the rising political and racial tensions in post-Trump U.S. and post-Brexit England.
The resulting album if anything elevates the spirited intensity and fervor of the band’s first album. Songs like “Walk Like a Panther” (which samples a speech by slain Black Panther activist Fred Hampton) and the stomping title track “The Underside of Power” found Algiers distilling uneasiness over our increasingly dystopian present into a fiery, cathartic soundtrack.
The quartet would go on to playing high-profile sets at European festivals in addition to playing its first stadium-sized shows as direct support for Depeche Mode. In the U.S., the group would embark on a tandem tour with fellow Atlanta artist, psychedelic-soul singer/songwriter Curtis Harding.
On the band’s third full-length effort for Matador, Algiers reteamed with producers/engineers Randall Dunn (Sunn O))), Boris, Earth, Six Organs of Admittance) and Ben Greenberg, who both contributed synths and programming to There Is No Year. While the band’s lyrical commentary is if anything more pointed and direct given the political and social upheaval of the intervening years since their last record, the new material offers a more simmering intensity to the music than past albums
The album came out in January of last year to wide acclaim, just in time for the global pandemic to shut down any possibility of touring behind the release, though the group did manage to make its network television debut with an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert prior to the shutdown. At last able to return to the road with reduced COVID restrictions, Algiers earlier this month embarked on its first tour since the pandemic started. Dante Foley — a member of Cleveland, OH-based live experimental hip-hop act Mourning [A] Blkstr — will be filling in as touring drummer on these dates as Tong takes paternity leave to protect his newborn baby.
Fresh from a weekend performance at the Treefort Music Festival in Boise, Idaho, the band brings new tunes back to the Bay Area Monday night, headlining a show presented by independent radio station KXSF at the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco. Appearing with the band is Brooklyn-based experimental electronic duo Zen Mother, whose music ranges from claustrophobic industrial pummeling to placid ambient soundscapes.
Monday, Sept. 27, 8 p.m. $15-$17
The Rickshaw Stop