BALACLAVA delivers ‘THE 1/4 INCH ALMANAC’ as rapidly pocket-sized eruptions of sonic catharsis

The Queens-based band's latest EP presents a strangely stirring collection meant to rage, freak, glorify, and embolden.

When BALACLAVA, the Queens-based project of Dylan Joyce, steps onto a stage they do so wearing neon ski masks that reassure the crowd they’re about to be treated to a raucous limb-thrashing set. The band just finished a spring tour of the East Coast, where they dished out dizzy lo-fi with a jagged punk edge. Having released his first batch of singles Have a Taste in February 2023, he returns a little over a year later with THE 1/4 INCH ALMANAC—a new collection enhancing his genre blurring with stunning fluidity.

All four tracks on the EP were created around the same time last year, with Joyce writing and recording them using a Tascam 388, as well as enlisting Matt Elicone on drums and James Malzone on keys. “FOUR SCUZZED-UP, BEER-SOAKED, SYNTH-SWIRLING, GAIN CRANKED, MUSCLE MOVING, NECK TWISTING, STICKY SWEET TRACKS MADE JUST FOR YOU,” Joyce announced on Instagram, calling them a “QUICK GRASP OF DISTRACTION IN THIS EXACT MOMENT. HAVE A DRINK, SHED A TEAR, PUNCH A COP, PET YOUR DOG, AND DIG IN.”

True to those rapt and sweeping sentiments, the resulting project crackles with a hybrid electro-rock kineticism, fusing droning synth melodies with heady drum-guitar noisiness. Furiously twitchy, it starts with “BLUE $$$” bubbling into existence as a warble of electronica, and soon you’re submerged beneath a crunchy flood of riff-droning mania. Out of that haze come words of irreverent apology and menacing self-deprecation—“Please excuse our wrong way syntax / We never did learn much / Just how to kill in these handcuffs”—that sharpen the giddiness of Malzone’s whining keys. Fragmented and ferocious the track seems to slip into the front seat of a police cruiser, answering snark with implied violence.  “Put ‘em in the back with the rest / Funny when he said ‘Oh please don’t do that,’” BALACLAVA jeers, proving that if there is a song on the EP that screams “Punch a cop!” it’s this one.

Like a jackhammer on the gas pedal, the exclamatory “PILLS ON VACATION!” keeps THE 1/4 INCH ALMANAC locked in a frantic acceleration. As a maelstrom of noisy guitars and percussive clatter chase glowing synths, BALACLAVA unleashes a madcap inner monologue soaked by feverish anxiety. “I’m freaking out,” he  confesses, words spilling out in jittery jumbles: “I pop a pill / Hope I don’t regret / I’m sweating head.” The song’s frothing ecstasy captures in vivid agitating detail the notion that sometimes you just need a vacation from your vacation.

Faced with the vitriol and panic of its first two songs, “WHERE IS MY FOUR DIMENSIONAL DOG?” injects a much-needed jubilee into the collection. A psych-rock worship of an interdimensional hound? A rollicking sprint through spacey electronica and distorted barks? This track checks boxes we didn’t even know existed—let alone craved. “4D hound dog,” BALACLAVA chants, punctuated by a buoyantly spiraling melody. “He knows you he knows all / He sniffs you he sniffs all.” Blast it for your canine companion, they deserve a new banger in their life.

The EP ends in a whirlwind that embodies the full rousing effect of BALACLAVA’s music. As its title gives away, track four “SIMON STEALS A LOT” tells the tale of a blind pick-pocket too damn good and too damn quick for his good. “Yeah he pick that pocket fast, / Tell em never guna catch his ass,”  he sings with admiration against the propulsive impact delivered by Elicone’s drums. As you wail along to the chorus—“Guna be / Stealing / Saving”—you find yourself impelled one last time to cheer on another scene of iconoclastic absurdity.

THE 1/4 INCH ALMANAC does not relentlessly toss you through a gauntlet of roiling anthems. Swiftly switching from tongue-in-cheek provocation to fervent sincerity, its songs are delivered as rapidly pocket-sized eruptions of sonic catharsis. Feeling red hot rage? How about the stabs of hysteria? Are you marveling at the whimsical existence of a pet? Mesmerized by the farce of life? Rippling and burning with a volatile punk energy, BALACLAVA’s new EP tumbles earnestly but maniacally through it all. Presenting a strangely stirring collection meant to rage, freak, glorify, and embolden—do so with abandon.

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