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Avant Garde

Haunted Horses: Watcher
Review + Stream

Haunted Horses are a trio from Seattle, Washington who play impossibly eerie, dark post-punk. Watcher is abrasive, dissonant and unsettling; full of rumbling tribal drumming underneath ominous synth drones and piercing, trebly guitar picking. Where many death rock and post-punk bands adhere to what are essentially pop song structures and tropes – albeit dark versions of such – Haunted Horses definitely draw their influence from the opposite end of the spectrum.

These tracks are free-form and impressionistic, steering well clear of anything even closely resembling new wave in favour of hypnotic marches and schizophrenic song structures that veer wildly from robotic repetition to explosions of volume and dissonance and back again just as suddenly. Eschewing the bass-heavy melodicism of other post-punk acts, these tracks have a nerve-shredding obsession with higher frequencies and atonality played off against drums that can come off as both tribal and organic and robotic and completely off-kilter. The vocals, too, veer wildly, from a flat apathetic drawl to harsh hollers, but they always sound distant and mostly are all but consumed in the cacophony of the instruments, like a ghostly afterglow adding yet more menace to the proceedings.


Every track teases and withholds resolution, but it is the closing track, ‘White Eyes,’ that comes closest to something resembling an actual rock song, continually threatening the listener with the possibility of something to actually get moving to; here and there bursts of bashing drums and power chords will get your foot tapping for a few moments just before snapping back to that dark subdued tribalism Haunted Horses pull off so well.

Every minute part of every track seems designed to put you on edge. Every element of these songs – the uncomfortable constancy of higher frequencies and lack of bass, the perpetual atonality that is never allowed to resolve into harmonic consonance, the almost-there but just-out-of-reach vocals, the ever-present urge to break out into full-on sonic assault that is never fulfilled – generates a sense of virtual tug-of-war in the listener, the constant push-and-pull between what feels like should happen and what actually happens. Haunted Horses constantly tease and draw back and run in the opposite direction.

These musicians are masters of control and restriction, and this album feels suspiciously like an act of sadomasochism against the listener, like a constantly provoked yet forever withheld climax.

Pick up Watcher here.


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