Daniel Higgs Portrait Daniel Higgs has served as post-hardcore’s devotional core in secret and for so long that many don’t even realize it. His tenure as the shamanic, enigmatic frontman of LungfishDischord’s  most arcane band, and one that appears to be as unofficially defunct as close contemporaries Fugazi—saw the bearded, glowering, knuckle-tattooed enigma evolve from a growling poet into a mantra-chanting ritualist before finally falling off the face of reality and into the realm of outsider solo albums (some made exclusively with improvised Jew’s harp).

Lately, Higgs has returned to more rocking territory as a frequent guest vocalist for the Swedish group the Skull Defekts, and Dances in the Dreams of the Known Unknown is Higgs’ third album with the band. On previous releases such as 2011’s Peer Amid, the collaboration has yielded hypnotic wonders and grueling drone-gluts alike. Dances has a lighter, more porous touch, as aggression and angularity still dominate the group’s noise-born compositions, but they’ve been honeycombed with pockets of atmospheres and cells of relative silence.

The most striking example is album cut “Awaking Dream”, a hollow, ghostly echo of a Higgs-plus-Defekts song as the band shivers in a sequence of controlled, krautrock spasms, Higgs hovering over synths and drums like a crucified prophet. “Expanding, oh oh oh, contracting/ Spiral arms curving out and streaming in,” he sings, not-so-subtly conflating orgasms with the horror of cosmic realization. If Wilhelm Reich had worshipped Cthulhu, he might have written like Higgs.

Compared to his vocals in Lungfish, though, Higgs’ contribution is hushed and muted. The roar is gone, and it’s missed, since Higgs barely registers on Dreams at all. He’s not featured on the much of the album, and that will be a drawback for almost anyone who engages with the album while hoping to engage with Higgs. Granted, the Skull Defekts make fine music on their own, but they sound more alluring and entrancing when their wagon is hitched to Higgs. “Patterns of Thought” and “The Known Unknown”, two of Dreams’ best tracks, fuse abrasive circularity with numbing oblivion, but “Venom” and “King of Misinformation” come across as pseudo-industrial self-parodies. Higgs has been cited as a the band’s “spiritual ringleader”, and his status as the Skull Defekts’ official fifth member has been officially cemented. But Dreams could have used a lot more of his voice, verse, and devilry.


Thrill Jockey


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