Austin, Texas favorite sample-based sons Street Sects career arc has been a fast, strange and always interesting one, with their extreme and extremely well-received debut End Position garnering them widespread praise, the band have evolved their sample-based sound while moving slowly away from their industrial elements, playing more to the post-punk side of their sound. This was especially evident on their last year’s Rat Jacket EP, where vocalist and producer Leo Ashline’s vocals were mostly cleanly sung, in contrast to the majority harsh vocals featured on the debut.
Despite the decrease in intensity for a lot of the EP, Rat Jacket was a fantastic shift in the band’s unique, engaging sound, retaining all of their core aesthetic values while pushing the music in a more dynamic and open direction. It felt natural, an organic evolution that signaled loud and clear that the band weren’t content to simply iterate on their formula, and desired a stronger post-punk element to their songs. And it worked.
So, too, does The Kicking Mule work, as it’s DNA is far closer to Rat Jacket than it is to End Position. This is not a negative, though it’s also not to say the band’s sound on that debut LP was in any way bad. It’s just that The Kicking Mule sounds like a band writing exactly the kind of music they want to write, without any worries about creative or artistic bankruptcy. That Street Sects are able to do so, and shift their core sound in such a chameleon-esque manner, without losing sight of what made them so appealing in the first place, is not just admirable, it’s damn impressive.
The band have honed their style to an absolute razor’s edge, and in doing so have done away with every last element they deemed unnecessary. Every song on The Kicking Mule works, and works to such a degree that you’d be excused for thinking this was a band with at least another decade of experience under their belt. But no, in four short years Street Sects have somehow blazed a trail entirely their own in a musical landscape that’s devilishly hard to make an impression in. And they’ve made quite the impression, currently touring with like-minded acts such as The Body and Author and Punisher.
Street Sects sound on The Kicking Mule is the sound of a band, a duo no less, at their creative and experimental peak, not content to simply rehash the past but also not willing to let go it entirely (something they have in common with the characters in their songs). With generous use of every element of their sound from every EP and LP they’ve released to date, the dynamic duo have broken out of what could have easily become a creative rut, simply rehashing End Position with every release.
Where the band will go from here is anyone’s guess, but if you have the slightest interest in experimental music, industrial or post-punk and haven’t listened to this band yet, what’s wrong with you? There’s nothing quite like Street Sects, and with The Kicking Mule they’ve managed to both buck the sophomore slump and remain one of the most interesting and engaging bands in extreme music.