Fiercely independent and furiously articulate, Taiwan Housing Project is the kind of band they don’t make anymore. Whether sweating it out in a dark basement with tomorrow’s noise-rock elite or tearing up the stage opening for yesterday’s no wave heroes, Taiwan Housing Project exude confidence, purpose and poise. But the dominant theme for THP is fire -- the kind that burns deep in the gut; the kind that burns the dead growth gone; the kind that sparks violent and necessary change. Singer/ guitarist Kilynn Lunsford is the kind of hellraiser that your momma warned you about. Leading her band into the fray, Lunsford wields her voice like a dagger and her guitar like a broadsword. Her trusty lieutenant is guitarist Mark Feehan, who once drew serious blood in ‘90s attack unit Harry Pussy. Feehan coaxes sounds from his guitar that veer from eerie vines of feedback to gutbucket wah-wah stomp, perfectly complimenting the rhythm section’s slam and throb. Live, the four members of Taiwan Housing Project engage in a ritualistic frenzy that borders on the hypnotic.
For Sub-Language Trustees, their follow up to 2017’s critically- acclaimed debut Veblen Death Mask, Taiwan Housing Project has partnered with NYC’s Ever/Never Records. Sub-Language Trustees is a striking addition to Ever/Never’s deep and diverse catalog.
The album opens with a jolt in the form of the punishing, sax- streaked “Charitable Fiend.” Stage set, the band launches into “Vessel Creep,” a pulse-quickening journey into a heart of darkness that only Lunsford can fully comprehend. “Buy Buy Buy” opens with children screaming and laughing, which adds a little levity to its vicious takedown of capitalism and the commodification of sex and romance. Here is Taiwan Housing Project at their most inviting and their most pugilistic -- the paradox is the point. Seduction and desire turns on itself. The American Dream speeds away in a gas-guzzling SUV and you’re left holding the roses, inhaling dust and fumes like it’s your birthright. The mesmerizing “Downy Hump” can only be described as a refreshing trip to the swamp, while “In A Cartoon I Can Sing” and “Toxic Garbage People” are heat-seeking missiles designed to kill (your sense of equilibrium). On Sub-Language Trustees, Taiwan Housing Project is channeling the discontent of the monoculture into brutal and mysterious songs not unlike Sonic Youth circa Bad Moon Rising. This is powerful music fueled by rage and ecstasy and it functions like a torch for these dark times.
Our take: Second album from this group from Philadelphia. I heard their previous one a few times, but I’m excited to sit down with Sub-Language Trustees, particularly since THP has made the jump to Ever/Never Records. I’ve been following Ever/Never for a few years now, and they are adept at finding bands who sit in the sweet spot on the continuum between weird / experimental and more straightforward and pop-oriented. Taiwan Housing Project is a perfect fit for the label as they have elements that remind me of musical experimenters of yore (Butthole Surfers in particular), but seem determined to push forward and make something their own. Sub-Language Trustees opens with “Charitable Fiend,” the record’s most avant-garde moment. The pounding, headache-inducing groove (if one can even call it that) is like early Swans with caterwauling vocals and skronking sax spewing ecstatic noise over top. A full album this abrasive would be an interesting (albeit tiring) experience, but by the third track, “Buy Buy Buy,” things are downright accessible. The track is bluesy with its wah-wah guitar, in-the-pocket rhythm, and Janis Joplin-like vocals, but like Fun House-era Stooges, this is dark, psychedelic blues, the music stretched to its breaking point. The rest of Sub-Language Trustees is full of surprises, and for all the out-there sounds and experimentation, there’s memorable music at the core, not unlike early Royal Trux in that respect. Recommended if you’re looking for something that challenges your brain while still gratifying your baser impulses.