With the most unceremonious title of any track released in 2020, Heavy Blog presents “Steven”, one of the most bizarre and satisfying tracks to come from Underer‘s debut LP The Code. Underer – the brainchild of one Nick Shellenberger (Cleric, Shardik) – belongs in a grey area between any genre tag currently trending on Bandcamp. Dissonant, distressing, and damned enjoyable, Shellenberger’s solo project originally stemmed from a desire to step aside from the traditional confines of collaborative songwriting; truly letting his freak flag fly in the most inconspicuous of manners. “Steven” is a little dangerous, but a lot desirable, especially for anyone patiently waiting for that Genghis Tron update. Head on over the jump to find the track (and more of me convincing you this is something special).
Anchoring The Code, “Steven” is maybe the perfect example of the kind of free-form experimentation that Shellenberger set out to employ with Underer. Cut into two parts, but not precisely, the track has this roaming, confrontational atmosphere that spits and starts with rumbling bass and cacophonous production. The second half of the track cuts in out of nowhere with a droning note that is built upon and finally spirals out in a last-minute flurry of bedlam. With vocals that touch on Will Haven and instrumentation that will please avant-garde and math genre freaks, “Steven” is this dark brewed concoction of styles that normally just sound tacked together. The Colin Marston mixing, mastering, and engineering brings a level of sheen and scary, scary volume to that final cluster of devastating drums. It’s worth noting that while chaotic, there’s a minimalist sheen to proceedings too. Impeccably done, if I may so, Senor Shellenberger.
The Code is a weird beast, for sure, but it might all make a little bit more sense once you read Nick’s very funny and insightful breakdown of the track (note – I couldn’t find anything impertinent to remove from this quote, so you’re getting the whole damn thing as it arrived):
“I think this was the first song I really set out to write for this project and with a real idea of what I thought the overall sound might consist of, so it feels appropriate as a further introduction to the music because it was kind of my introduction to the music at a point when I realized that pieces were just coming together on their own without me knowing where they were coming from. It reminds me of something Thom Yorke said about how he didn’t write “Street Spirit” because he captured it from somewhere else or something (lots of of folks have said that and this is obviously not “Street Spirit”), and this was kind of the first time I’ve ever felt that way about something I’ve “written.” Like with the rest of the record, I wrote the lyrics in the studio more or less as I was tracking vocals and this one ended up being about a feral boy with too many limbs (“Spider boy, born in the dirt”) who gets taken in to perform in the geek show, biting the heads off chickens and scaring the shit out of normies. In his heart though, he’s deeply connected to the nature he grew up in and is weary of the exploitation of performing. He’s been left with a choice between his safety/comfort and the life he truly wants out in the wild. It’s a somewhat clumsy analogy for humans accepting comfort in exchange for what’s in their heart and also just a reflection of my own desire to stop performing for society and live in the woods somewhere where no one can find me.
Fun fact: the weird noisy sounds in the second riff are from a phone recording of my old car radio tuned to some random AM frequency and responding to the revolutions of the engine while I was driving.”
There you have it.