The idea of “punk heroes” might seem laughable in 2013, but if such a term ever carried meaning then Dracula Lewis certainly deserves it, says Daniel Jones.
In an industrial area of Berlin’s Neukölln district, the windows of a concrete warehouse are being shaken from their frames. It’s three in the morning. An industrial fog machine is being blasted like a cannon into the faces of 200 sweaty weirdos, all encircled by four Funktion-Ones. In the center stands a long-haired man, battering his synthesizer and spitting his voice out like poison. Welcome to the place where graves are in style and raves are defiled, the sound of a world where every day is heat, smoke, and thrashing blissed-out weirdness. This is the world of Dracula Lewis.
As the man behind DIY record label Hundebiss, Simone Trabucchi has been propagating his uniquely synthpunkian tastes into shattered ears since 2007, providing outlets for the voices of Sewn Leather, JAWS, Angels In America and other titillating bits of oddness. His debut U$e Your Illu$ion$ has many of the elements present in so many Hundebiss releases—heavy vibes, throbbing bass, and a shattered sort of neutral nastiness about it, like an apathetic switchblade contemplating a vein. What makes it stand out is not only its weirdly cheeky humor, but also its surprisingly addictive compositions.
The album opens with a quote from the X-Files classic episode “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space'”, a bit of eye-twinkle beneath the black shades and one of the defining moments in the career of Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura. From there, it’s relentless, a nonstop blast of noisiness… yet it never crosses the line into abrasive. It’s this factor that makes U$e Your Illu$ion$ such a perfect record. It’s highly listenable not only as a showcase of aural oddity, but as actual songs. Anyone can put out “weird” music these days; just toggle the Garageband setting to “Ariel Pink”, punch a keyboard and sign up for Soundcloud. When you can make it memorable, then you know you have something. Halfway through the album’s third track “Cheetah”, I realized I was singing the chorus quite a bit louder than the other people on the train would have appreciated. Even more, it manages to capture how powerful Dracula Lewis is live; there’s an intensity in every one of the 11 tracks here that a lesser artist couldn’t convey over a decade-long discography. I daresay you could even drop a few on an open-minded dance floor; the cosmic-tinged hip-hop influence of “Gleaming Dis Cube”, the blown-out collapse of “Sparkle Flesh”, and the chugging bass of “Working Class Hell-Hole” in particular are exactly the sort of things I’d love to slip in to a set.
U$e Your Illu$ion$ is the modern equivalent to all the experimental albums of my childhood. It’s sick and rad and a bunch of other phrases that I liked to say when I was fourteen and still say, sometimes, when things just deserve it. Embedded within, you’ll find traces of Public Image Ltd.’s revolutionary dub-punk, the asexual artdustrial of Virgin Prunes, and the sleazy, lurching electronics of Suicide, yet these are merely reference points for the initiated. Imagine the kid who picks this up without prior knowledge of these sorts of things. I’m imagining it now, and wishing I was him again. The idea of “punk heroes” might seem laughable in 2013, but if such a term ever carried meaning then Trabucchi certainly deserves it. From the work he’s done with Hundebiss and leading up to this excellent release, he’s proof that DIY or DIE is more than just a phrase to be painted on a jacket.