La Dispute has never been a band prone to settling. The five-piece from Grand Rapids, Michigan, is responsible for some of the most uncompromising, experimental hardcore music of the last decade. From their 2008 debut (in their current formation) Somewhere at the Bottom of the River Between Vega and Altair, to 2011's Wildlife, to 2015's Rooms of the House, La Dispute have continually pushed themselves to find new ways to portray some of the most difficult and universally affecting subject matters. Casting a wide stylistic net that includes - but isn't limited to - jazz, blues, spoken word, screamo and prog rock, La Dispute have developed a sound that, while constantly evolving, is unmistakably theirs.
A lot of structural change has taken place around the band since Rooms of the House that has forced them to adapt. La Dispute has always kept a tight grip on their own reins. Their first two records came out on Californian independent label No Sleep - trusted home to many of the bands they cut their teeth alongside - while Rooms of the House was released through their own label, a subsidiary of Vagrant records. After Vagrant was bought out by BMG in 2014, the band found themselves looking for a new home, ultimately finding one in Epitaph. Their fourth full-length, Panorama, is the first fruit of this new relationship.
Recorded between November 2017 and August 2018, Panorama is in many ways a continuation on a theme. It's a highly ambitious and deeply affecting body of work that filters narrative storytelling through a personal lens, like a set of Joan Didion essays set to music. It's heavier and weirder than previous efforts, taking the intensity of Wildlife and the patience of Rooms of the House and using them as pillars upon which to build something new. And, in doing so, they have broken through their own ceiling and set a new one.
Panorama has not been without its challenges, both creatively and practically. Only three members were living in Michigan when they started writing, with drummer Bradley Vander Lugt now living in Australia. Out of necessity, the incubation period for ideas began with back and forth over the internet, but the bulk of the writing had to be done together in their hometown of Grand Rapids. So, finding a time when Brad could make the trip with his family, they blocked three months off to write and rented a studio space to work 9-5 through the week. For over two months, they worked in separate rooms on individual tracks based on a rough concept and outline that Jordan had put together. They had around seven tracks finished when they came to the decision that no one was happy with them. With only the weeks before Brad was due to fly back to Australia left to work with, they scrapped everything and started all over again.
"In general, I think working apart when we were all there together was a waste, but I think we had it in our heads that there was a direction we should be going. That we needed to pick up where the last record left off and push further in the direction of quieter, more structured songs, but that never felt right," Jordan says in retrospect. "Feels a bit silly to say, but when we started over we all more or less just went by instinct. What happened felt right, and that's really where the record started."