Preoccupations played Brighton Music Hall – 4/18

Calgary post-punk crew Preoccupations returned to Boston in support of their aptly-titled third LP New Material, joined by fellow Canadians Freak Heat Waves. 

Formed under the ill-considered and since retired moniker Viet Cong in 2012, Preoccupations earned their early notoriety on the strength of tense live shows, a promising debut cassette and a killer first full-length. The quartet’s self-titled 2015 LP is one of the essential rock records of the past five years: a 7-song collection that dismantles familiar noise rock and post-punk structural elements and refashions them into something fresh and adventurous.

Three years later, New Material finds the group pursuing a somewhat different muse. Like their 2016 sophomore release – that one self-titled under the Preoccupations banner – New Material moves further from hard-charging guitars and rhythmic punch in favor of industrial synths and an air of creeping dread. Preoccupations have always sounded anxious, but LP3 is the sound of the band venturing deeper into the woods of doubt and disarray than ever before, taking the listener along with them.

Naturally, that leads to a different kind of live show than the group’s more punk-rock early outings. Wednesday’s set stretched longer than I’ve seen them play in the past, lit mostly with eerie backlights and invoking that same unease that increasingly characterizes their recordings. Their playing came across less frantic, more measured – a presentation that’s evolved with the music. Preoccupations remain an intense live act, if a different one than you might’ve encountered in years past.

Freak Heat Waves, hailing from British Columbia, complemented their tour-mates with a set of austere, disorienting punk deconstruction that remained deadpan and unflappable even in the presence of one obscenely drunk front row heckler.

Photos of both sets below.