Q&A: Disappears' Brian Case On Krautrock, Sonic Youth, And Ascending Rapidly And Metaphorically Into The Stratosphere


As a sobriquet, Disappears strongly implies some sort of vanishing point: stillness, quiescence, minimal house music. The reality, of course, is different the way a sledgehammer differs from a ball-peen hammer. On record, this Chicago quartet is all presence: a shuddering combustion-engine surging forth with rocket-launch intensity, throbbing, lashing guitars and autistic, swarming drums celebrating Krautrock's in-and-out-of-focus drift and motorik pulse while concurrently saluting Spacemen 3's fried-cerebellum dirges. There are bits and pieces of other bands in the stew, too: Wilderness's hoarse swirl, Public Image Ltd's proclaimatory verve, even the Strokes' garage-rock strut; elements of "Guider" are even suspiciously reminiscent of "Barely Legal."

Right now, though, the throwback-derived sound guitarist Brian Case and drummer Graeme Gibson built Disappears on—and perfected on 2010's Lux and this year's Guider (both Kranky)—is evolving into something different. Gibson left the band on good terms earlier this year, and Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley joined Case, guitarist Jonathan van Herik, and bassist Damon Carruesco on tour and in practice. A follow-up to Guider is due later this year or next.

Sound of the City emailed with Case about discovering Krautrock, parenthood, and working with Shelley.

Can you remember when and how you first encountered Krautrock, and what your initial reaction to the genre was?

My friend Rob Lowe—we were in a band called 90 Day Men together—played me Faust at some point, I remember that for sure. This was probably like '97 or '98. I definitely knew Kraftwerk, but had yet to really dive into their whole thing; I guess I was more familiar with them because Big Black aped The Man-Machine for that single.

I think when I really "heard" it though was when I was working at Reckless Records in Chicago around '99. I got a copy of [Can's] Ege Bamyasi because someone was playing Vitamin C while we were working. It sounds silly, but it really did blow my mind; it was fluid, but had all these things coming in, and out. I really loved it. From there I followed the natural Krautrock progression and checked out Neu!, actually listened to Kraftwerk, and then went deeper into the Cluster and Harmonia stuff, then La Dusseldorf, et al.

As far as the genre itself goes, it was pretty eye-opening. I guess it was the first time I really heard the more free, expressive "noise" element anchored to something solid; no one at that point was doing anything really Kraut-influenced; repetition wasn't really a part of the musical vocabulary with the people I hung around with. I mean, Tortoise was certainly filtering that stuff into their music, but the source material was really fresh. Still, it hadn't had its "re-birth."

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