Speaking not from personal experience but from the hallowed pages of Wikipedia, a K-hole is a schizophrenic, hallucinogenic state achieved after consuming a sufficient amount of the drug ketamine. A K-hole can include out-of-body or near-death experiences, and that crazy Timothy Leary psychiatrist guy from the 70s – the one who prescribed LSD – got his patients to take it. In other words, it’s a terrifying, paralyzing nightmare in which you can see yourself thinking you’re about to die, and then you don’t remember it when you wake up. That might not be the most positive message to convey about your band, unless that’s actually kind of what you want your band to sound like.
Which brings us to K-Holes, (formerly) out of Brooklyn, a raw punk band who distinguish themselves from most angry garage denizens through the inclusion of, all things, a saxophone, and not merely sax, but sax set to Quarterflash’s “Harden My Heart” or Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” . And weirdly, it works, whether taking the place of a grimy synth undertone to add a little background weight to thrashing, rusty-edged guitars on “Rats” or gleefully squealing away on “Child” and “Frozen Stiff.” It’s an empirically lustful instrument, and combined with pummeling bass and tom drums and vocalist Vashti Windish’s throaty cries, it provides emotional relief to an otherwise detached, morbidly fatalistic sound. Lyrics are as likely to be droned as screamed – a manic-depressive style that underscores the unstable instrumentation. Dismania makes for an altogether appropriate title for an album this interested in gathering the common ingredients of despair, anger and disaffection.
When K-Holes’ debut self-titled album was released in 2011, the band tried to describe itself as “dirge surf,” though that record, like Dismania, is far heavier on the former than the latter – none of the grinning, middle-finger-to-your-dad personality of a band like Wavves is to be found here. And that’s okay; a darker, less accessible mission can be just as rewarding and interesting. What aesthetic originality lies in K-Holes’ work is in the joy they seem to feel at expressing those dark intentions; in a more technical sense, it lies in that jarring, productively strange saxophone. Admittedly, “Mosquito” is more fevered and jittery than any other track on Dismania, and “Dirty Hax” is a bit more psychedelic, with the sax taking a backseat to spiraling guitar work. On closer “Nothing New,” Windish’s vocal counterpart (and former Black Lips guitarist) Jack Hines offers the most succinct description of what it means to both make and listen to music like this: “I look like a cadaver / every morning after.” Will K-Holes ever look like anything else?