South Side thrashers Haki have found their groove in their latest release, Haki’s Big New EP, which, despite its fifteen minutes of playtime, is unexpectedly big, full of doom, and eerily cool. With lyrics that are maybe brilliant but also maybe terrible and senseless, you can’t help but feel part of something visceral, emotional, elevated—brutal.
The EP opens with an intergalactic fifty-eight seconds of unintelligible noise. The sounds would verge on a mangled dubstep were it not for a brilliant lead-in into the second track, “Shoot.” Here, as on other eye-melting, migraine-inducing tracks like “Oh Man, Oh Boy” and “Fishtank,” vocalist Kelsey Ashby’s throaty, sometimes-grating-sometimes-soothing sounds are equal parts riot grrrl and deadpan—the band tags all of its records on Bandcamp with “spoken word,” alongside “doom punk” and “experimental rock.”
Each song feels like a minute or two inside an unspecified narrator’s head—the ups and downs, the bigness and smallness sound like a stream-of-consciousness rant. “Shoot” is masterfully divided into three parts: two angry, indignant, vengeful sections (“I’m so glad to know how it aches inside you;” “Fucking dry-headed / You never understand”) frame a crooning, jarringly self-aware aside (“I want out / Of this process / I dig deep to understand / I’ll make a mess”). Ashby wrestles with her unspecified object of discontent, backed by guitar, drums, and bass thanks to all-stars Yusuf Muhammad, Ruby Dunphy, and Connor Tomaka.
On “Oh Man, Oh Boy,” one of Big New‘s standout tracks, Haki explicitly recalls quintessential pop punk. The song evokes a live basement show full of head-thrashing, effervescently dancing showgoers—a show you’d leave with the song’s simple, angsty lyrics (“I want to be confused / By you / You make me make sense / Why you?”), catchy guitar riffs, and banging drums ringing in your ears on the cold walk home. The killer cowbell from Haki’s past hit “Weigh Me Down” shows up again in the dynamic, confusing “Spliff,” full of funky guitar and groovy beats—at least until thirty seconds in, when the music expands into big sounds and loud, familiar screams.
Pre-release, guitarist Yusuf Muhammad told the Reader that Big New was going to be the “most punk rock” thing the band has ever put out. But the thing about Haki is that no familiar music descriptor feels like enough to describe the eclectic mix of sounds they produce—one inevitably comes away from the EP’s last distortion thinking, “Of course they’re obviously a mix of ‘doom punk,’ ‘experimental rock,’ and ‘spoken word.’ What else could they be?” Big New is not just “the most punk rock” thing Haki’s made—it’s big, it’s new, and it’s the most everything.