Album Review: Sextile – Push

[Sacred Bones; 2023]

If Push comes off as relentless, then that’s by design. After a three year hiatus – following the tragic death of original band member Eddie Wuebben – Brady Keehn and Melissa Scaduto enlisted Cameron Michel on guitar and synths and came together as Sextile once again to make music for one purpose: to make people move. “We wanted to have a record that is just full of dance songs,” the LA-based band explained of their new album. 

Push doesn’t push any boundaries, but it isn’t exactly setting out to do so. It’s a crash of post-punk and dance music, with influences from just about every decade from the past half century peppered about its 11 tracks. It’s crass but also hugely enjoyable at its best, plonking you somewhere between a sweaty rave dance floor and a boisterous mosh pit in a grungy New York club. “Plastic” mixes a tangled guitar squall into the hurried drumtrack, while “Lost Myself Again” goes for churning distortion, elastic synths, and hyperpop tempos. A lean 34 minutes long, the album still leaves you winded for breath come the end and aching for a little respite – or even just a slowdance number.

Thankfully the album’s best track, “Crash”, offers this up at the album’s centre. Bathed in washed out synths that echo some distant alarm, the track has a bleary-eyed slow sway to it; it’s a comedown to a delirious high, but still captures that magical and euphoric feeling where you move in unison with a hundred other sweaty bodies beside your own. There are hints at slower tempos across the album, often as brief intros before a hardcore BPM supplants the moment of peace: closing track “Imposter” bathes in an ambient vocal bath and warm arpeggios before a rubbery EDM synth kicks it out the way, while “New York” plays with a toybox-like melody before squiggly synths and thumping rave drumtracks lay themselves over it. These moments hint at an inverse side of Push, a calmer more resonant foundation that hints at a sweetness amongst the party-hard exterior.

Push could have pushed itself harder too; a selection of the tracks could easily have leaned into their EDM and dance features more, extending themselves out for full club mix. “Crassy Mel” jumps between flurries of guitar and blissed out ecstasy, and it’s aching for a little more space to play about with. Opening track “Contortion” is a cut akin to Beams-era Presets via Silent Shout, and it’s ripe for remixing, while “No Fun” belongs on the dance floor but deserves a little more time there to get the most out of its builds and drops.

This isn’t too much to fuss over though when the album is blaring in your ears. Push is a fast good time, even when it drops the ball. “LA DJ” is a quickly tiring satire that is as hollow as the target it’s poking fun at, which, while intentional, makes it no more fun to sit through. “Basically Crazy” and “Plastic” are perky guitar-led bursts of energy, but are lacking something substantial to latch onto after repeated listens).

As far as aims go, Sextile succeed in what they went for. It might be a blunt instrument they are wielding, and it might become wearisome sooner than you like, but Push does at least push its listener to the dancefloor for a short while –  even if it feels like it’s through brute force alone.