Written by: Continuous Thunder
For Los Angeles industrial noise rock band HEALTH, the album cycle has two distinct parts. First, there’s the studio album with all-new material, and typically it will be different from the last one, but a lot of the major HEALTH components will be there. Then, a year or so after the studio album comes another album with the word “disco” in the title. This will have remixes of the tracks from the studio album provided by other artists such as Crystal Castles, Toxic Avenger, Tobacco, and Purity Ring. The band followed this pattern for three albums, but for the fourth cycle, they decided to change it up. Rather than remixes, DISCO4 contains entirely new tracks created in collaboration with all the contributing artists.
And these contributors aren’t just the various remixing friends that the band has made over the course of three previous DISCO albums. There are some artists here with serious music nerd cred like 100 gecs, JPEGMAFIA, and Xiu Xiu. They all bring something unique to the table, but to varying levels of success.
The best tracks come from the artistic combinations that just make complete sense. The clear highlights of the album are the collaborations with Youth Code and Full Of Hell (“INNOCENCE” and “FULL OF HEALTH,” respectively). Both bands bring a heaviness and an edge that is beautifully contrasted with the more atmospheric and haunting feel of HEALTH’s recent work, taking them back to their noisier roots. Similarly, Perturbator’s dark take on synthwave is a perfect fit with HEALTH’s gloomy industrial beats on “BODY/PRISON.”
I also, personally, like the hip-hop collaborations on DISCO4. HEALTH’s instrumentals are a perfect fit for Ghostemane’s metal-influenced, industrial rap on “JUDGEMENT NIGHT.” (Granted, your enjoyment of the track will be based on your opinion of his voice. I don’t mind it.) And the instrumental the band provides on “HATE YOU” is simply a match made in heaven for JPEGMAFIA’s bars. I do have a couple of complaints on this track though. It’s very short and they save the noisiest goodness for the last 30 seconds, leaving me wanting more.
Most of the remaining tracks are good as well, but they don’t stand out quite as much because the collaborations serve more to complement HEALTH’s sound, rather than enhance it (“COLORS” featuring The Soft Moon is an excellent example of this). Again, this isn’t a bad thing, these are still great tracks. It’s also worth noting that the only track without any collaborators, album opener “CYBERPUNK 18.104.22.168.,” is as good as the best tracks of the band’s last studio album. The one exception in this group of tracks is the collaboration with 100 gecs, “POWER FANTASY.” At first, the duo’s hyper pop synths and frantic percussion play well with the industrial atmosphere, but there are some left turns towards the end of the track that are on-brand for 100 gecs, but I don’t know if they fit with the rest of the album.
There are a couple of missteps on the album, but only a couple. The first is the collaboration with Soccer Mommy, an artist where I don’t really understand the hype in the first place. Anyway, the track plays like a weaker entry from HEALTH’s regular catalog, Soccer Mommy’s vocal contribution doesn’t really add anything, and her voice is pretty similar to the band’s vocals. So you might not even notice if you’re not paying attention. And then there’s probably the most disappointing misstep on “DELICIOUS APE” with Xiu Xiu. On paper, this collaboration sounds amazing given Xiu Xiu’s noisy experimentalism. But the group’s contributions feel underutilized, leaving the track feeling boring and like a missed opportunity. It does provide a moment of relative quiet and emotional weight among everything else, but it still feels a little disappointing.
Overall, I think DISCO4 :: PART I is a welcome change of pace, a great addition to the DISCO series, and a great addition to HEALTH’s discography in general. The band did an excellent job of choosing artists that complement or enhance their work (mostly). Some of their best work in recent years can be found here, and the “PART I” in the title leaves me excited for PART II, whether that’s more collaborations or the remixes from their last album.
HEALTH - DISCO4 :: PART I was released on Oct. 16, 2020, on Loma Vista Recordings
Continuous Thunder reviews even more music both inside and outside the realm of metal on his own blog, conveniently entitled Continuous Thunder. Now that you're done reading this, you should head over there and check it out!
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!