Philip K. Dick-heads will remember the Voight-Kampff machine from Blade Runner, the empathy-detecting polygraphs that separate humans from replicants. Emotional response, it appears, is what separates us from the robots. In keeping with its namesake, Voight-Kampff reveals its humanity with a blur of dark-tinted bluster that never sacrifices melody in the name of speed of force. Led by local poet and hardcore lifer Joseph Sulier (the Breaks, Kill Me Kate) and Minneapolis guitarist Colin Swanson-White, the band has both MPLS and STL lineups; when Voight-Kampff plays the rare local show, Doom Town's Ashley Hohman (bass) and Tone Rodent's Matty Coonfield (guitar) fill out the lineup along with drummer Tom Valli. But for this document, the two principals do all the heavy lifting and produce twenty minutes of smart, soulful punk.
Production values are practically anathema to hardcore, but the self-titled cassette bears the mark of sonic care and wise aesthetic choices within a limited palette. There are nice swaths of tremolo twang and artfully deployed reverb on these tracks, and guitar solos are brittle enough for punk but almost slick enough to pass as roughshod rockabilly. Johnny Marr should get a royalty check for the intro to "The Great White North," a testament to Swanson-White's dexterity and ability to set himself apart from the bash-'em-out chords that surround most of these songs. The one-two punch of opening cuts "The Hell of War" and "Good to Be Alive" works in counterpoint to one another while establishing a sun-blasted, nearly spaghetti Western tone for these seven songs. Sulier is more a singer than a shouter, and his lower register on the final, untitled track helps sell the Cramps-like vibe to the tape's more haunting moments.
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