Having started as a caustic metal band in the late 2000s, Kowloon Walled City has spent their career evolving into something more refined, and that continues on their fourth album – and the first in six years – Piecework. At this point, they sound like a cross between Slint and Neurosis, blurring the lines between post-rock, post-hardcore, and post-metal in a way that feels totally dark. There is beauty in the production and the crisp musicality, but the songs never sound bright or uplifting. The music seems as apocalyptic as the recent works of Swans and Daughters, and like these bands, Kowloon Walled City is proving to have serious longevity. There isn’t a lot of variety in this album – every song sounds the same – but the repetitiveness adds to the overall feeling of dread. To listen Piecework you feel like you’re trapped in a hell you can’t get out of. [Notable Releases]
Walled City of Kowloon recently released their first album in six years, Piecework (that’s my review above), and now guitarist Jon Howell and bassist Ian Miller have each made us a list of songs that influenced the album, with comments on each choice. The diverse roster includes everything from PJ Harvey and Low to Unwound and The Wailers, and you can read what each member had to say …
Jon Howell’s Choices
PJ Harvey – “Is it desire?” “(From Is it desire?)
When we started to write Piecework, the objective was to reduce the songs to the essentials. In doing so, we had a few major benchmarks, and of these, PJ Harvey was the most important. “Is This Desire” doesn’t contain much – just drums / guitar / vocals plus a little backing synth. The structure of the song is a simple rhyme. And it’s a flawless song. All of these simple components combine to create something powerful and beautiful.
Gillian Welch – “The Way It Will Be” (from The harrow and the harvest)
Gillian Welch is a master at writing soulful music that contains flashes of hope. This song had such an impact on me that we covered it for a Sisters In Christ split with our friends Josh and Sara from The New Trust who were handling the vocals.
Low – “Murderer” (from Murderer PE)
Like PJ Harvey, Low uses relatively few rhythmic and melodic elements to create massive and beautiful music. Alan is a particularly tall lyricist, fleshing out entire characters with just a few sentences. “Murderer” is a powerful song, and listening to it feels like watching a giant wave crash against a cliff and then drift away.
Unfolded – “Disappoint” (from The future of what)
The drums and bass on “Disappoint” (Sara Lund and Vern Rumsey respectively) completely drive the song and give Justin Trosper the space to create a loud, melodic guitar wash that hangs over everything. As a songwriter, it’s a lesson in letting a killer rhythm section do all the heavy lifting.
Richard Dawson – “The Vile Stuff” (from Nothing important)
Richard Dawson is my favorite living musician. His songs and lyrics are amazing, but his guitar playing is a special influence. I used his hot and finger-picked guitar work from “The Vile Stuff” as a point of reference on Piecework while writing parts for the songs “You Had a Plan” and “Oxygen Tent”.
Ian Miller’s choices
Pitchshifter – “A superior form of killing” (from desensitized)
Were these guys a blatant Godflesh scam? Absoutely. Have they refined and improved the Godflesh formula? The 25 year old me certainly thought so. A perfect marriage of metal guitar and industrial rage. And the gnarliest bass sound 1993 had to offer.
Killing Joke – “Requiem” (from Kill the joke)
Before Killing Joke, no band had ever married big guitars with electronic and dub elements. Without them, there is certainly no Godflesh (and by extension, no Pitchshifter, and probably no KWC). The insistent drum beat of “Requiem” and seasick synth hits and KJ’s use of space and dynamics are ingrained in our band’s DNA.
The Wailers – “Small ax” (from Burning)
I could have chosen almost any Family Man Barrett (or Sly Dunbar) song, but “Small Ax” is one of my favorite Family Man bass parts. Much of reggae bass is about negative space and note length, and both of these are essential in the lines I write for KWC. It wasn’t until I started learning roots reggae songs that I really started to pay attention to this stuff; as a punk and metal bassist i never thought about it. I just wanted to play as many notes as fast as possible. But reggae teaches you to lock yourself in with the kick and take out anything that isn’t essential. This is how I see my work in Kowloon.
Harvey Milk – “Death goes to the winner” (from Life … The best game in town)
Whatever “post metal” band you think you hear on the last 3 albums, it’s not them. It’s Harvey Milk. They are the biggest influence of this Kowloon Walled City era, and you would know that if you listened to Harvey Milk more.
Wetnurse – “Not Your Choice” (from Invisible city)
I’ll be honest with you, boss: it didn’t influence Piecework anyway, but damn it Wetnurse is a criminally underrated group and more people need to know about it. Throw on Invisible city and cross the nearest wall.