"I think different kinds of music serve different purposes," Ackermann said in a recent phone interview from the road. "And what we're trying to do is use extreme volume and soundscapes to take you out of your normal everyday life and business-as-usual thought processes.
"The whole experience is meant to be like taking psychedelic drugs without the drugs, especially with the intense visuals we also have on stage. We want to make your experience mean something."
The Brooklyn-based trio, affectionately known as "the loudest band in New York," will return to Tucson for the second time this year to play Sunday, Oct. 5, at Plush.
The music of A Place to Bury Strangers sounds like all your favorite '80s post-punk and shoegaze bands--The Jesus and Mary Chain, Joy Division, My Bloody Valentine, The Cure--filtered through a contemporary avant-garde sensibility à la downtown NYC noise and art-rock.
The music assaults the listener with brutal sledgehammer riffs but also fills up the senses with billowing banks of chill mist. Ackermann and company jam-pack the songs with the ear-singeing automaton disco beats that came out of Factory and Wax Trax Records. Nevertheless, charming and sweet melodies occasionally emerge.
"It's only inevitable that we would sound like the bands we grew up listening to," Ackermann said. "That was when we were listening to a lot My Bloody Valentine and Jesus and Mary Chain and all that. But when we were growing up and becoming musical, I was also falling in love with the electric guitar and all the possibilities for making sound with it, as well as loving music of the 1950s and '60s, from bubblegum to girl groups. I think all that stuff is influential when it comes to creating our aesthetic."
The group's debut album, A Place to Bury Strangers, was released last year on Killer Pimp Records, following three EPs in 2006. It shows off the breadth and depth of a sound that some casual listeners might think is otherwise limited.
Ackermann pointed out that A Place to Bury Strangers is not attempting to re-create the sound of its forebears.
"It's not like we ever try to write something in a particular style. Naturally, if your interests are in a certain era and area of music, it will sound that way. You can't help yourself. But I would hope we are creating something new, too."
To that end, Ackermann also is an inventor and marketer of custom-made effects pedals through his company Death by Audio, which he founded in 2001.
Although the Death by Audio warehouse, located in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, also serves as a performance space, musicians' gathering place and recording studio, the name is best known as a purveyor of fine effects for the discriminating musician.
In his role as Death by Audio CEO, Ackermann appears in the film Fuzz: The Sound That Revolutionized the World, a documentary directed by Tucson musician Clif Taylor about the world of boutique fuzz boxes.
Ackermann is probably pleased that his pedals are now used by such acts as U2, Wilco, Nine Inch Nails, Lightning Bolt, Spoon, TV on the Radio and, a source of special pride, My Bloody Valentine. Odds are, though, that Ackerman saves some of his best effects for A Place to Bury Strangers.
On the debut album, you can't help but marvel and wonder at the beautifully ugly roar of what could be a dying mammoth on "Don't Think Lover" or the shimmering curtains of electricity that pour down throughout "The Falling Sun."
Although the band has gone through a few personnel changes since it began about five years ago, Ackermann said he, bassist Jonathan (Jono Mofo) Smith and drummer Jay Space have settled in as the permanent version of A Place to Bury Strangers.
Smith and Space are veterans of several bands, and before he moved to New York, Ackermann performed with the Virginia band Skywave, which played music similar to that of his current band, "but it was not as fully realized," he said.
Although the band's name might call to mind some generic screamo act, Ackermann said it was borrowed from a poem with a similar title by legendary occultist Aleister Crowley. It refers to the potter's field that Judas allegedly purchased with the money he was paid to betray Jesus Christ.
In between near-constant touring in the U.S. and Europe, A Place to Bury Strangers is working on its second album, Ackermann said.
"We've been touring a whole year. Even after this tour ends in November, we'll have, like, four days off, and then we have to head back out on to the road. But we've also been recording the new album for a while now, too. I would like to say it's going to be even more noisy and a lot more fucked-up, but we're going to have to wait and see. You can never really know. Some of the new songs, we're finding, are really melodic. So maybe we'll keep them that way."