draag me: Lord of the Shithouse Album Review
By Dash Lewis
August 17, 2023
At first blush, it’s hard to make sense of exactly what’s happening in Draag Me’s lord of the shithouse. The tracks here are dense, dissonant DAW symphonies, full of sharp textures and brightly colored elements that burst apart like a crystal shattering on a concrete floor. Compositions settle into a groove only to suddenly about-face, as if trying to stave off an existential crisis through constant movement. It’s music for the endless TikTok scroll, the hollow feeling that remains after long hours of consuming heaping helpings of infinite nothing.
Draag Me started as the solo project of Zack Schwartz, one of the driving forces behind Philadelphia psych band Spirit of the Beehive. His first record under the Draag Me moniker, i am gambling with my life, was a collection of warm, hazy electro-pop with an undercurrent of anxiety. With idle time during the pandemic, Schwartz started emailing scraps of songs to his Beehive bandmate Corey Wichlin, including some taken from Beehive’s ENTERTAINMENT, DEATH sessions. The two passed files back and forth, arranging and mangling them until full compositions emerged, ones more metallic and jittery than their predecessors.
On the album, the duo’s warp-speed compositional style is thoroughly captivating. They’re clearly proficient in various strains of electronic music: “death cult” moves nimbly from Detroit techno to Chicago footwork, throwing in dashes of hair metal guitar and vaporwave bass. The glitching disco of “like a nuisance” morphs into a booming rap song, with Chicago emcee CRASHprez rhyming over a beat that sounds like it’s being stripped for parts. These whiplash stylistic changes can feel distressing. There’s a cloud of malaise that hovers over the record, no matter how much the music zigs and zags beneath it.
Schwartz tends to bury his vocals under layers of processing, but when his lyrics do peek out of the cacophony, they emphasize the general sense of unease. “When you came around, you fucked up my whole life,” he coos against the tender witch house of “faces of vultures.” Amidst the decaying synth stabs and pounding drums of “wax figures in the rain,” he whisper-raps “Just put me in a casket, nothing comes after.” If gambling was a manifestation of anxiety, lord of the shithouse is a record about the destructiveness of depression.
The ever-shifting movements of “throwing rocks” spotlight the album’s key strengths. The track begins with chugging noise pop that disappears within 30 seconds, shifting into an early-aughts R&B jam and then shadowy dubstep that evokes early Burial; it gets increasingly scrambled as quavering organs and clicking percussion enter the mix. It’s a sensory whirlwind that leaves you processing at the end; though you’ve taken all it in, you’re still unsettled.