Superbugger are the product of a collaboration of two veterans of the New Zealand noise rock scene, Antony Milton and James Kirk. Their debut full-length release ‘AKU’, released on HBC Records, is perhaps one of the spikiest, unfriendly records you’ll ever hear, an oblique and challenging album even by the unforgiving standards of avant-garde noise. After just forty minutes of the Superbugger treatment, even the most free-thinking fans of experimental music may well find themselves re-evaluating their own pre-conceptions of where the boundary of music and noise lies.
Opening track “Strobe” lays out Superbugger’s stall from the outset, a fizzing and tumultuous wall of washed-out guitar fuzz layers upon layers deep. It’s dense and impenetrable and the band offer little to hold on to, save for savagely jagged high-pitched feedback. If there’s anything resembling a song structure here it’s lose in the same fog that buries the percussion work and the ever-so-faint fragments of vocal and melody that fleetingly surface through the murk.
There’s something of a psychedelic element at play on ‘AKU’, and hints of this appear on tracks like “Lips” and “Plate Spinner”, where tortured, skeletal riffs structures riding over the ever-present sea of noise lend a vibe that’s suggestive of the very worst kind of trip. It’s in these songs that Supperbugger come closest to giving the listener an entry point but the meandering soundscapes never really go anywhere and tension and development within the tracks is almost entirely absent.
The back end of the record is dominated by super fuzzed-out drone numbers like “Concrete Steps” and “Elemental” that offer no respite from the squall. “Bus Girl” briefly presents another chink in ‘AKU’’s armour and there’s a suggestion that there might be something quite interesting going on here, if only the listener could get under the song’s skin. Alas, however; the production is just as unforgiving as the songwriting and once again I found my efforts to get to grips with Superbugger thwarted.
‘AKU ‘is nothing if not divisive and open-minded noiseniks may just find something special among the fuzzed-out feedback. Not me, unfortunately. I can’t pretend that I enjoyed this record and even as a fan of noise rock, drone and a number of bands who have availed of notoriously lo-fi production at various points in their career, the abstract sonic tangle of Superbugger is just too far removed from any musical frame of reference to really allow me to penetrate far below the surface. I’m certainly open to the possibility that I simply “don’t get” this Kiwi band but ultimately I found that my patience with Superbugger ran out long before my ears became accustomed to their anarchic din.