Quicksand Returns with Sonically Vast ‘Distant Populations’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

There’s a desperate intensity that permeates Distant Populations, the fourth album of Quicksand’s near 30 year career and second with legendary west coast label Epitaph. With the longest tracks of this 11 song album barely breaking the three-and-a-half-minute mark, Distant Populations is a concise exegesis of philosophy and emotion that finds the band exploring the lack of honest-to-god connections in our modern world.

This is apparent from the opening moments of the album, “Inversion.” Leaving little time to catch your bearings, Quicksand comes out swinging with a statement of intent. “Distant populations, going nowhere,” screams lead singer Walter Schreifels, “so far away from us, you wouldn’t know where.” Serving as a tonal pacesetter, “Inversion” quickly lays the groundwork for the album to come.

Largely, it’s a sonic extension of their 2017 reunion album, Interiors. Still, Distant Populations finds Quicksand exploring a marginally poppier sound than their previous effort. Where Interiors had some elements of prog in its composition, Distant Populations has a more straightforward approach that befits its to-the-point approach to songwriting.

That said, this is still very much Quicksand playing in their sandbox. Take “Colossus,” for instance. The album’s third track is driven by a pounding, classic hardcore rhythm that is impossible to deny. Schreifels again waxes philosophical, singing “we’re never meant to feel completed/as long as we’re here/it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter what for.”

Never content on settling on a single sound, Quicksand oscillates between the crunchy and pounding sounds of “Inversion” and “Colossus” to the more quiet and moody sounds of “Brushed,” which feels as influenced by The Cure as it does Jawbox.

This dichotomy exists throughout the record, creating a nice amalgam of sounds that fully explores the tools and influences Quicksand bring to their groove. And yet, the shortness of the songs lends a feeling of immediacy to the album that makes even the moodier, more introspective tracks on the album feel weightier and more intense.

By the time you reach “Rodan,” the album’s closer, you feel almost like you’ve undergone a slow moving ass-whooping that somehow leaves you both breathless and ready for more. It’s a boundary expanding record for Quicksand that serves as an excellent evolution of Interiors in a way similar to how Manic Compressions was for Slip.

While it doesn’t do much to redefine what post-hardcore means, Distant Populations does work as a stand-out definition in its own right. The 11 tracks here showcase a diversity of sound ranging from the melodic to the crunchy, culling from a wide array of influences to produce a philosophically and sonically cohesive exploration of existential wandering. Though not exactly a stunner of an album, it is a solid return for these foundation layers that serve as an awesome reminder of who they are and their place in the wider scene.

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