The duo from California is back now showing the best version of their hopeless, anxiety riddled sound.

The Flenser Series One keeps on giving. I’ve followed Wreck and Reference for years now since Indifferent Rivers Romance End, and lucky it has grown on me so much. I think everyone’s first time here can be complicated, so when coming across Wreck and Reference’s  niche they carved out it was a shock to the senses that needs time to fully process. Coming to it after that, their evolving sound from the primitive Black Cassette up to Absolute Still Life is a journey that must be applauded since it still stays true every emotion along the way while iterating continuously to its extremes. The sense of dread, depression, and anxiety morphs with every record, and Absolute Still Life is exactly that.

A trend appears in Wreck and Reference’s catalog, where every effort slowly drops live instrumentation which has now culminates into an entire MIDI record. In doing so, the act displays this very cold and artificial space which breaks occasionally to show a shred of humanity and rot only to instill this new acute oppression that can’t be found anywhere. Songs like ‘A Mirror’ and ‘Eris Came To Me At Night’ do this well while they either tow a beat or fill the mix with indiscernible noise. It doesn’t fail at making you want to crawl into bed and pull the covers over your eyes only to waste away in self pity.We also get the labored pull of ‘What Goes In and Comes Out’ where Felix’s excellent vocal work sounds at the edge of an emotional knife just waiting for that little nudge to send him falling, which is where I believe the album gets hard to listen to. This is by no means a jab at its quality, but a testament to the unbridled depression.

Absolute Still Life feels more at home while stripped of their physical limitations and fully embrace the darkness they can conjure in the full digital realm. ‘Amends’ is so devoid of the usual suite of backing and throwing a clean keyboard into the mix, it’s like an accession into the most hopeless state of being. Asking, “What do we say? Kill those above us,” or “Can you look away for a second as I loosen my belt,” with heartbreakingly drained vocals.

It’s pretty easy to take all that’s been said here and feel that it’s just a refinement on the formula, but if you’ve listened to the few singles that have come out leading up to its release (A Mirror, Sturdy Dawn, What Goes In And Comes Out), you have at least an idea of how improved this is. What can’t be accurately described is how much Absolute Still Life transcends the previous albums by taking their sound wherever they please without fear of judgement and are able to create an album of the year contender and the new staple of post-metal gloom.