Greenpoint is home to various unnatural disturbances: the Death Star sewage plant, the unpleasantly visible air, the underground oil spill. Most residents, too occupied with frantic Twittering, etc., are indifferent. But local rockers Pollution are four men aligned against the mass delusion of thousands, in revolt against the digital toys that keep the public entranced. They’re also adherents to the belief that humans are past the point of return—that, in addition to a poisonous dispersion of refuse, technological advances are only distractions from the neurotic toxins breeding inside each of us. They are purveyors of a reality that destroys—as stated on their recent release, the oddly titled n.s.DRUGS—the “glamorous poisoning process.” Through the sound of a world drowning in industrial poison, they set fire to hippie communes and embrace Brooklyn’s filth viscerally—not just with instruments but, if need be, with strong drink and drugs.
Though they’re now flourishing amid our beloved industrial decay, Pollution’s roots actually stretch deep into Raleigh, North Carolina, and Richmond, Virginia. The former is the hometown of mastermind/lead guitarist Light (a/k/a Sean Livingston); in the ’80s, Raleigh gave birth to both the pummeling distortion of Corrosion of Conformity and the more technically mutated rhythms of Confessor, bands that would come to play a role in both Pollution’s drum sound and guitar work. Meanwhile, Richmond established itself as a vital incubator for hardcore. “I saw Confessor a lot and was always blown away by their song structures,” says Light. “But it was Pen Rollings [guitarist for Richmond bands Honor Role, Butterglove, and Breadwinner] who was a big influence. That guy was the guitar giant from ’86 to ’93.”
Rollings’s innovative work is often cited as a touchstone of what would come to be called math-rock, a throwaway rock-critic term that, when used more accurately, is actually a clever way of describing a dissonant, off-kilter, ominously infected sound that Rollings dispenses in its purest form. Regardless, it’s a sticky label that Livingston quickly puts aside: “I don’t think the math-rock was an influence, but rather unconventional songwriting,” he says, adding that such unconventional fare was, of course, not specific to the East Coast. “Later-era Black Flag are so fucking gross-sounding. I’m still trying to make something that sounds that gross and actually ties into Butterglove, who are the grossest-sounding band ever.”
With Pollution, that unhinged fuse is lit by what Livingston describes as “a colossal amount of reference points coupled with very different approaches to playing.” Raspy howls from vocalist/bassist Radioactive are grounded by drummer Invasive Species, who approaches his kit the way a hurricane approaches a coastal village. The rhythmic work of Atmospheric Dispersion strikes like a hammer drill in an abandoned building, whereas, on the floor above, Light focuses on feedback strains, often fitting them between notes, where they slowly emerge as electrical apparitions. “I love using feedback for a guitar ‘lead’ or even a main riff,” he explains. “But I try to not overdo it. There is an entire slew of bands lately that are so saturated with feedback that it loses its impact completely.”
Each member of Pollution contributes, in addition to pills and booze, his particular strain to the band’s sonic poison. “Those guys kill it!” Light raves of his cohorts. “They’ve been writing a lot of the new riffs. But our greatest commonality is calling bullshit on the same exact crap out there.”
Pollution play the Music Hall of Williamsburg July 26 with Torche and Harvey Milk
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 22, 2009