Human Impact: Live at The Empty Bottle

The issue’s not whether you’re paranoid, Lenny, I mean look at this shit, the issue is whether you’re paranoid enough.

Max, Strange Days

Human Impact hit the road for a fall U.S. tour; a tour that, due to an ongoing global plague, could only happen over a year and a half after the release of their self-titled debut record. Both their 2020 album and the 2021 follow-up EP01 explore power struggles, system failures, societal erosion, and refusal to heed nature’s warnings. Chicago’s Empty Bottle was the setting for their December 8th show, and all in attendance got to be primary witnesses in how these explorations sound live.

Given the pedigree of its members, Human Impact’s sound is not the obvious assault on the ears that one might expect. The band consists of Chris Spencer of Unsane, Phil Puleo of Swans and Cop Shoot Cop, Chris Pravdica of Swans, and Jim Coleman of Cop Shoot Cop. Stylistically, the songs focus much more on creating a sense of brooding and tension than on cathartic explosion. Chris Spencer’s vocals are a bit subdued and more contained compared to what you’d get on an Unsane record; the rhythm section of Pravdica on bass and Puleo on drums rumbles along, each at times featuring quite prominently at the fore of the song. Jim Coleman’s electronic sounds add a rhythmic element all on their own, and build an atmosphere that emphasizes present day society’s very inorganic disposition.

The prescience of these songs is readily apparent. Disease, greed, political tension, the erosion of privacy — it’s all there in the news each day. And so Human Impact can take a victory lap for calling it. But who wants to be right about widespread encroaching dystopia? Nothing will get fixed without recognizing what’s wrong. Perhaps some day these will be songs about the past.