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Review: La Misma Rebuild Hardcore Out of Scraps on ‘Kanizadi’

7
SPIN Rating: 7 of 10
Release Date: September 4, 2015
Label: Toxic State

New York City hardcore act La Misma took their name with a wink. That minimal two-word phrase is Spanish for “the same” — a delightfully understated moniker for a band whose caffeinated, brittle take on the hegemonic genre structures are anything but. Over the course of the last couple of years, the band, led by highwire vocalist Nay Vieira-Rosario (who sings entirely in Portuguese), they’ve played a nearly uncountable number of shows and issued a 7″ and demo tape, all of which have gone out the way to inject a little bit of off-kilter weirdness into a genre so often driven by straightforward masculinity.

On their debut full-length, Kanizadi, the four-piece largely continue that enterprise, shocking and shaping the malformed slop of their ’80s Italian hardcore influences into a vision of the punk that looks beyond shirtless dudes smashing microphones into their foreheads. La Misma allow time to stall and start, slowing to a menacing plod (on the album’s opener and title track) or opening up to a full-on gallop. It’s brutalized and brisk in equal measure — more damaged than Damaged, but as nauseatingly envigorating as a pixy stick. Still, at whatever speed, their brilliance lies in that sickliness and an unwillingness to smooth away edges, a welcoming embrace of an awkward gait. The gawky locomotion of a track like “Raspados” shows the stitches of their Frankensteinian hardcore, and roiling riffs threaten to tear apart and let the track’s guts spill out. But it never does, and they never do, the beauty’s in the threat of violence, not in the theater or the actual display.

But for all the dynamic herky-jerkiness that the band performs, Vieira-Rosario is undoubtedly the star of the show. Her vocals are occasionally muffled by beautifully ham-fisted production that gives the guitars far more weight and meat than many punk acts in their DIY orbit. But when she cuts through, her voice is one of the more dynamically expressive monotones this side of Iggy Pop. The track “23:15″ most readily demonstrates the full range of her chattering attack, pealing upwards into teeth-gritting squelches, or peeling paint from the walls with its acrid overtones. It’s a voice with physical presence, one that eliminates the need for the usual hardcore frontman rigmarole — all she needs to do to be compelling is open her mouth and let the acidic syllables pour out.

All of this makes Kanizadi a tenuous thing, a wobbly structure with devilish aims — like a rickety catapult that could crumble into rubble before launching its devastating blow. So La Misma take a smart tact, and get their idiosyncrasies out of the way quickly, shoving nine tracks into just over 20 minutes, making brevity, at least, a way in which they’re “the same” as their punk peers. But still, there’s a real danger, both in these compositions and in the intent that’s lacking in records that are louder, faster, and more well-polished than Kanizadi. Wasn’t punk always about being different anyway?