Image via Sarah Pardini
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Listening to Lingua Ignota gives Mike Giegerich catholic guilt and he’s never even been to church.
The early days of sobriety embody the darkness before dawn. There’s the promise of a bright future ahead, but first lies the unpleasant task of parsing through years of pain. In the case of Brady Keehn and Melissa Scaduto, they were still in a tenebrous state upon the formation of the beloved post-punk outfit Sextile. Founded in Los Angeles in 2015 while both artists were in sober living, their debut album A Thousand Hands fittingly waded amidst a noisy, gloomy palate. It’s not to say that the project was abrasive to the point of aversion (see the propulsive rhythms of “Visions of You”), but there was an opaque haze across its tracklist.
After two years of growth, 2017’s Albeit Living found frontman Keehn, percussionist Scaduto, multi-instrumentalist Eddie Wuebben, and bassist Kenny Elkin taking a creative leap. Their sophomore album’s production had a distinct bounce. Its vocals emerged from anarchic distortion and there was now an underlying suggestion that their music was meant for the dance floor. After the replacement of Elkin with Cameron Michel, Sextile truly came into their own on 2018’s striking 3 EP. Razor-sharp synthesized grooves sliced through the audio ether on essential cuts like “Disco” whose title belied its potent edge. Sextile were now on an upward trajectory of exponential growth.
It all came to a grinding halt when Wuebben tragically passed away from an accidental overdose in 2019. As a band founded within the gestating womb of sobriety, it was particularly cruel to lose their creative partner, shining light, and personal peacemaker in such a fashion. Crippled by the seismic loss, Sextile fractured into solo efforts. Keehn debuted Panther Modern, Scaduto moved from percussion to the microphone with S. Product, and Michel dedicated himself to his visual art. As each member creatively blossomed in their own separate worlds, Sextile could have threatened to drift apart permanently.
But in 2022, they announced their return with the brilliant double single “Modern Weekend / Contortion.” Its visuals of joyous, rebellious youth signaled a completely reinvigorated Sextile. And after a year of touring and recording, they finally revealed plans for a full-length in summer 2023. The announcement was driven by a massive tonal shift with the technicolored elation of “New York.” A longstanding oeuvre with distinct ‘80s influences like Suicide was nowhere to be heard on the track. Sextile were sharing a Los Angeles-based bill with darkwave mainstays like Black Marble and Drab Majesty only a year ago. Now, their sound was supplemented by acidic rave synths harkening back to classic Goldie and early XL Recordings. Those nostalgic synths underscored Scaduto’s question seemingly posited toward the audience: “Are you ready?”
Firmly grounded in dance music and its exhilarating possibilities, Push is washed over by a sense of unshakable optimism. There’s venomous barbs that strike out at misogyny and caricatures of unbearable Los Angeles DJs, but blistering breakbeats and frenetic drum & bass rhythms make even the most seething lyrical moments tailor-made for Warehouse District after-hours. The project is bright and boisterous; even its visuals glowingly signal that their new era is a trip. And while this all might seem like a surprising left-turn for Sextile, their DJ sets over the past year have continuously hinted at the possibility of new pursuits. Regularly breaking the 170 BPM sound barrier, sweat-filled rooms whir down to the most fundamental molecules while the band dances with pent-up intensity from a years-long hiatus. Sextile are back and breaking new creative ground in the process.
Now fully committed to a cutting-edge creative pathway, there’s much to discuss. Keehn and Scaduto contemplate the importance of self-sufficiency almost a decade into their career, a home on Reno Street as a sacred space, and consciously keeping Wuebben’s memory alive through Push and beyond.