Coming from the Chicago underground music scene, GRÜN WASSER makes music that pulsates and taunts. The duo of vocalist Keely Dowd and producer Essej Pollock use the electronic/industrial tradition of Chicago’s storied Wax Trax Records as a jumping off point for their minimalist pulse. A mixture of Meat Beat Manifesto techno heart with the subversive lean of The Knife, this Chicago duo make personal and direct electronic and underground pop.
As well as minimalist but effective production, Keely Dowd tackles both societal demons as well as her own in her lyrics. After getting sober in 2017 Dowd focused on herself and the gender inequality she saw all around her, and 2018s Predator/Prey focused on that with laser precision.
GRÜN WASSER have returned with their newest album, the visceral and engaging Not Ok with Things. Continuing their push towards meshing perfectly art and pop, Dowd and Pollock have made a minimalist masterpiece. Combining punk, EDM, industrial, and underground pop, Not Ok with Things is GRÜN WASSER bringing the personal and performance together in a potent sound of jagged inspiration.
The songs on Not Ok with Things feel raw. There’s a buzzing intimacy that Keely Dowd and Essej Pollock build here. Single “Stranger’s Mouth” is the perfect example of GRÜN WASSER’s power. Skeletal production given flesh by a hypnotic pulse of a beat and Dowd’s vocal delivery. Lines like “I never gave in to all the sour/it was whispering by me for hours/leave it grieving as the whole world melts/contemplating how to cure a crowd” feel both poetic and profound. Underneath it all, the simple beats and hypnotic delivery hook you, like the best pop music does. “Driving” delivers a kinetic rhythm and an almost industrial/noise vibe. Dowd’s vocals sound like they’re trying to escape from some other dimension. Robotic and disengaged from our reality. And album opener “Translator” comes to life on a wave of dark techno and industrial spirit. There’s a real Shaking The Habitual vibe here. Strong, visceral, and dealing with the damage of existing in this world the best they can.
Elsewhere, “Worm” is a slow burn dirge. Minor key guitar chords accompany Dowd’s chorus-like vocals over seven minutes of contemplation. “Gray/Grey” pulsates with an urgency. There’s a vulnerability in Keely Dowd’s vocals that contrasts with the minimalist, raw production. Personal art should sound this raw and open.
GRÜN WASSER’s Not Ok with Things is a sharp, biting piece of music and art. Personal songs with backbone and rhythm that dig deep and leave marks. Keely Dowd and Essej Pollock have found the perfect balance between movement, emotional evisceration, and performance art on their newest album. Minimal electronic construction leaves room for exorcising personal and societal demons. GRÜN WASSER continues a long tradition of next-level underground Chicago music, and Not Ok with Things is up there with some of the best.
8.2 out of 10
GRÜN WASSER’s Not Ok with Things is available 10/4 via Holodeck Records. Order it here.