CUSPS Present New Album ‘Out For Blood’

CUSPS’ Out For Blood is a collaboration between J. Sehorn and Daniel Twombly. Based in Kansas City, this duo grew out of two coworkers that worked together at an audio-video company. At first, these two just engaged in casual jamming together, which eventually evolved into more serious songwriting. The act’s noisy, dark music has been described as Sehorn’s psychedelic rock and ‘90s alternative music love, matched to Twombly’s more minimalist, heavy sound – including dance-y synth lines. The result is a seven-song set of ominous-sounding tracks.

The project’s title cut, “Out For Blood,” begins with a light synth melody, placed over a bass-y foundation. The track’s dueling vocal sounds frustrated and annoyed with all the hard work this person puts in. It comes off a little like a modern-day working man’s blues, in fact. All the way through, one also hears heavy percussion. Although it has a dance-ish groove, it might be difficult to actually imagine anyone moving and grooving to it.

With “Brainiac,” a slow groove track supports a another annoyed-sounding vocal, only this one is of the low and bellowing singing variety. It’s the sound of someone who is smart, but more than likely, also bored to tears. While synth is incorporated in many places on the album, “Liquid City” is propelled by an electric guitar riff. One wonders what is meant by the title. Could it be referring to booze? Then again, there is a lyrical line about moving “that money,” so it’s difficult to decipher exactly what is meant by its song name and words.

“Zoo” is strikingly different from the other inclusions on the album, in that it is far quieter than the other tracks. It once again features a low register vocal. It also utilizes electronic percussion and keyboards, but these are applied minimally and subtly. It sounds a little like Death Cab For Cutie doing something downtempo.

The album closes with “Activated,” which is another softer piece. This vocal is slightly higher and more melodic. The track’s rhythm, however, is low and throbbing. Like everything on the album, it will leave you with an uneasy feeling. These are not especially Gothic recordings, but it’s easy to see how Goths will gravitate to CUSPS. Joy and happiness are not emotions this duo cares to express through its music, it seems. Rather, these two musicians prefer to plumb the depths of negative human emotions. That’s an endless well, too, and as equally valid as the plethora of love songs created and released – on a daily basis.

The title Out For Blood is sure creepy, even if it may only be metaphorical. This music sounds like it could be used as the soundtrack of some crime movie or other. When you skip around to nearly any part of this project, you’re thrown into a spooky realm. It may not fill you with happy thoughts, but it might just leave you feeling anxious and disturbed, instead. This appears to be CUSPS’ intention. If these are the nerves they want to touch, they’re right on target. True art is meant to explore any and all human perspectives, and this one looks through the glass darkly – as darkly as possible.

–Dan MacIntosh