Baltimore’s American Pleasure Club, formerly known as Teen Suicide, is essentially the musical vision of Sam Ray, and he has described Fucking Bliss as his “suicide record.” Recorded over a period of just nine days in 2015, the eight tracks that make up the album are the outpourings of a man in the midst of a deep, anxiety-driven depression. Those who have been to such places themselves will hear echoes of their own mental state retold here. The clutter of the arrangements and the lack of clarity of the instruments and vocals are perfect audio similes for both the narrowness and bewildering breadth of thought that occurs in close proximity to one another, often simultaneously, at times of feeling lost in a world where everyone else seems so assured of themselves. Fucking Bliss is not for the superficial thinkers, and is hardly likely to soundtrack someone’s Friday as they get ready to go out for the night. This is an album which deserves focus and the complexities of the work as a whole can be seen to exist in many ways as a barrier to empathy and appeasement for the listener. Fucking Bliss is at once confessional, courageous and confrontational. There is beauty here, and attempts to repel, and noises that map the mental state of a breakdown in ways that few records have achieved before. There is a sense of catharsis, of frustration at the limitations of sound to convey feeling, and of unrepentant misery.

‘the miserable vision’ is the album’s first track and is serene whilst also being caustic to the soul. A breathy, repeated vocal line is to the back of the mix. The words are frustratingly difficult to discern (I settled on “lies” being the main repeated phrase but am likely wrong) and are accompanied by a distant sounding guitar and keyboard. The haziness of the track reflects perfectly the feeling of disconnection which comes with the exhausting regime of deep depression. There is an ethereal quality to the track which mirrors an out of body experience, perhaps of dissociation and a feeling of being lost in a familiar environment. There is a brief glitch in this feeling when, for less than a second, the spell is broken by the intrusion of another voice, almost hip-hop in manner and tone, as though radio wave signals are being interfered with. The absolute fucking bliss of the original thought is invaded by the presence of reality, an unwelcome transient ghost. It is on the second instance of this sound that the track bursts into full on Pharmakon-style noise territory, although the same piano refrain refuses to fade out in the background. The tinnitus-inducing and discordant nature of the song dies down all too quickly and makes way for a soothing keyboard line and some radio static before the track finally fades into the ether.

The unmelodiousness is taken up a notch on ‘what kind of love?’ which is captivating and disturbing. Distorted guitar chords bash away in the distance, with twinkling keyboards, washes of noise and the sound of murmured lyrics all combine to produce a glorious mess of mental and somatic suffering. Pain thresholds and tolerance levels are tested on this track as Fucking Bliss more firmly establishes itself within the realms of challenging experimentalism where it stays for the rest of its lifespan. Seemingly random noise signals intertwine, a reflection of the white noise of dark thoughts and one’s inability to command anything other than confused language at such times. ‘hello grace’ is, by comparison, almost a pop song with a recognisable melody and structure hidden behind a deliberately murky mix. There is a hint of latter-day Burial about this track but without the dubstep beats.

My one main gripe with this album is that all the tracks are far too short. The longest clocks in at just under four minutes, albeit a very tense sub-four minutes. Whether or not the listener would have been able to endure the forcefulness of the open wounds on display here for longer is subject to debate, but the brevity of the tracks often inhibits the listener from a deep submersion in the material and a more detailed alignment with the feelings on offer. The intensely personal nature of the output obviously renders the needs of the listener to a distant position within the creative process here.

There are echoes of other artists here including Whitehouse (on ‘ban this book’), A Winged Victory for the Sullen (on ‘let it go out’) and even Slowdive (on album closer ‘faith’, disappointingly not a cover of the George Michael song of the same name). Despite this, Fucking Bliss is a unique album in many ways and one which doesn’t even sit that well within the back catalogue of American Pleasure Club or their earlier Teen Suicide incarnation. There are shifts in tone, mood and emotional depth on this album which only further envelopes and more deeply ensconces the listener on repeat plays.

Sam Ray has produced an album which is seemingly one-dimensional in terms of thematic content, yet is joyfully multi-layered with regards to the sounds used to convey this deep paranoid state which was at the heart of his being during the making of this record. It is an album rich in texture, feeling and (perhaps surprisingly) humanity. There is a knowing sense of obvious disquiet on the tracks, but this is an all too regular element of suicidal thinking for some – to emotionally disconnect so as to not burden others with one’s own thoughts and feelings. There is a poignancy to much of the music when light is shed on the manner in which these tracks were made. The album juxtaposes beauty with despair, pain with release and fear with hope and is a jumbled mess of scope and aims which perfectly aligns the listener with the thought processes of a fellow human in the absolute belly of depression and angry fragility. The album does not make you want to reach out and soothe the worries which are wrought across the tracks rather than it does invite you in to simply observe at often uncomfortably close quarters, and possibly to understand. No more than that.

This is an album to get lost in for those who have been lost in their own selves at some point.