July 16, 2009
First and foremost I need apologize quickly for my lack of updating as I have had pressing home matters to deal with as of late. Anywho back to the music. This excellent group out of Purchase, New York has certainly been turning some heads lately. A three piece with ex Ra Ra Riot drummer Cameron Wisch its fairly simple to peal back the influences going on here but to their credit they certainly are an intense musical force in their own respect.
Harkening back to the heyday of 90’s heavy math rock there is more than enough of the old school Pittsburgh soul that helped power bands such as Hurl and Don Caballero to go around here. It should be said as well that spicing up each of their songs are hardcore influenced speak shout vocals from all the members. Never intrusive to the pieces but honestly the true magic here is the instruments, and boy is this some busy music for a trio.
Its hard to find math-rock especially in america these days that is as tight as its over sea’s counter parts and a little mess is ok but Zona certainly keeps things crisp between guitar and bass. As a drummer though and while perhaps unfair to say its excellent to see Cameron Wisch really doing some interesting things on the kit. Using highly syncopated licks and knowing when to reign it in or let loose is very much the style going on here. Often times though i find myself paying more attention to the little things he does like stick clicks where a milisecond pause may occur or taking a fairly straight forward beat and speeding it up to the point where you’d have a hard time knowing what you just saw.
These boys are currently on tour right now with the also fabulous Monster Machismo (whom i will be covering tomorrow) tour schedule obviously located on their myspace. I plan on attending their show in Ithaca NY July 30th at the always lovely Pirate House, so if anyone is in the area I can promise a show to be remembered. Check the link and the video below.
June 23, 2009
When “1000 Year Plan” is being described to you by someone it’s easy to file it under an easy dismissal. After all how many bands out there today travel in the same twisting math structures with a hard rock style? Lets just say the 90’s are reasserting themselves in a big way these last couple years with a flood of time signature consciousness groups. Having said this I can say with all certainty that this group is something special and I felt a fool for having those above stated thoughts.
Seconds into the first song on “In Theory and Practice” it is blindingly obvious that these 3 gents really know what there doing. Bassist Tom Yagielski seems to split half the time dualing off of guitarist Joe Kepic like a second lead and the other half holding down the fort with the equally spastic drumming of Brendan Kuntz. Its nice to see a bass player actually stepping it up and presenting some interesting interplay especially with music this complex. Not to down play the often strangely melodic passages of Kepic who seems to delight in harder post-hardcore style riffs and almost classic rock with an attitude sounding lines. Though not ones to be pinned for too long, songs will bend into slower areas when the feeling calls and is really a nice break. The two guitars it should be noted as well really do a great job of running together and apart. In their favor this telepathic interplay keeps the album sounding fresh and lively.
Structure wise they manage to succeed in one of the hardest things of this style of music, transitions. Yes they do flit from one idea to another but not at the detriment to the piece. Thankfully these guys know when to stay on a great riff or conversely to play it once and move on, something that a lot of bands could learn from. But really please stop reading this right now, go out and purchase this record as its pretty much an order at this point.
Rating: chicken nuggets. now im not talking fast food style im talking some gourmet nuggets here. Of course with your choice of dipping sauces if you feel so inclined
June 22, 2009
When I think long standing math-rock bands of the 2000’s it isn’t hard to immediately think of our ever line up shifting boys in Upsilon Acrux. Dont let their morphing fool you though, time in and time out they have never let this stand in their way by releasing solid recordings each and every time. Now stripped of every member except for the ever constant Paul Lai and adding in a new keyboard element (Phil Cobb of Bad Dudes) this is a group that has never sounded so vital.
To be honest though previous releases while excellent and tech. brilliant can be a bit taxing to pay attention to and enjoy all the way through. Melodies that stick were never something that they’ve traveled to often in opting for rapid fire ideas and guitar drum warfare. Unlike other bands of their ilk Upsilon has always been completly relentless with their instrumentation which can be good or bad depending on how your tastes run. Radian finds a more thoughtful group willing to divide time between the prog math of old and a new sense of melody where an idea might break the 10 second mark and repeat. This is an excellent development that lets you stop and think about what your hearing instead of it constantly being torn away in record time.
Words must be said of Phil Cobb’s contributions on keys as well. As anyone even vaguely familiar with his work in Bad Dudes knows that he plays a rather large roll in their sound and composition. Here he gives the instruments ample room to breath and try new ideas without being confined to highly shifting rock. At times the group takes on an almost ambient form as far as they go. Its good to see that extra depth added as it certainly helps out the 28 minute “transparent seas (radio edit)”. This might be one of their best works as it never gets old and always introduces fresh ideas while staying true to the composition.
Really nice to hear from this group since their last effort was back in 2007 (Galapagos Momentum) which in itself was a very solid disk. Hopefully we’ll be hearing more from this new line up in the future as I’m excited to see what curves they can continue to throw our way.
Rating: a nice hamburger with just the right amount of extras (tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, onion)
June 11, 2009
Ahleuchatistas mix the kind of music that most bands are still trying to distillate after years. From North Carolina they have healthy jazz influences with equal parts classic prog and avant garde leanings that produce a very unique instrumental sound for just bass, drums, and guitar. There are also some interesting undertones of the wild energy of punk proving that this is not just music for beard stroking hipsters.
Mostly clean toned guitar work that can shift from choatic stabs to locked in grooves with the bass. Drums also play similarly moving from more straight forward beats to fill laden licks. As said before they are a tight instrumental group that shows considerable practice has taken place during off time. The song structures themselves follow no set path and as such lend themselves well to various time changes. This is of course not for their own sake such as in some straight math rock.
Its in this formula that the group sometimes heads into repititive territory but for the most part this is the exception. While not having a general effect on the music production wise they have always been a bit lacking. It has an older sound which plays well into the songs but can also disguise some of the tech. fills and runs being played.
On the Culture Industry (2003)
What you Will (2005)
Even in the Midst (2007)
The Same and the Other (2008)
Listed are groups that while good in their own way just didn’t spark anything more than a few words worth. Certainly check out all the same.
Tiny Hawks: Old school hardcore punk softened a bit and mixed with some mathy elements. delightful but I wish the songs would try a little harder to stand out from one another.
Colour:UK Math-pop rock that is pretty catchy and fairly tech. at times. Unfortunatly not the most original math-pop especially coming from the now hot bed of time changes, the UK.
Here we go Magic: Really nicely layered space pop that tends to take its sweet time getting anywhere. When it does though things really work out well.
Hi Red Center: Disjointed and shambolic indie rock that when keeping its head above water can impress. The sad part is its a bit of a crap shoot as to wether the parts will fall together nicely or drop to the floor in a mess at any given point.
June 3, 2009
When your group is formed around the basis of reconstructing rock and roll music and keeping only essential elements id say you have some serious work ahead of you. For US Maple’s 1995 first full length it was a chance to prove just that.
Recorded by Jim O’Rourke it can certainly be a slightly challenging outing if your not used to squigly guitars. Not to mention Al Johnson’s crazy vocals that fluctuate between hauntingly soft, to odd moaning then to loud histronics. If that doesn’t sound very rock and roll your right it really doesn’t. After a couple songs though and you’ll really start to get the feeling that beneath everything theres a rock and roll heart pumping. Even arguably the album’s best song “Letter to ZZ Top” is an homage to classic rock.
As far as points of reference this certainly has the 90’s guitar rock feel to it however loose it might be. The math rock term is of course thrown around with this group and is fairly applicable. Although not as precise or fast as most math groups it certainly holds true. Royal Trux put in a blender with Jesus Lizard and mixed at varying speeds might put you somewhere near their sound. Releases that followed would slowly morph them toward more “conventional” structures but no less interesting. This is one of the best.
Rating:”Ants on a Log”(celery, peanut butter, raisins) an odd combo that at certain times can be very delicious but no less weird.
Sounds Like: When you get too drunk and things start to blur together.
June 2, 2009
Australian rap outfit Curse Ov Dialect skirts a fine line as far as independant hip-hop is concerned. On one hand they seem to want to be experimental with beats and word play but in the same instance there is certainly a great love for touch stones of the game: straight forward drums and varying mc’s taking turns. Its a tuff call as to what sort of group they want to be.
Not nearly as challenging as something like Clouddead, these 5 individuals do have serious flow as far as spitting verses. Not to mention they tend to do so in various languages and inflections of english. While mc’s are the lyrical content to any rap outfit it is the music providing a solid backbone. DJ Paso Bionic samples from such a vast area of material youll be lucky to identify more than one or two sources yourself.
It is very interesting for the most part but can get messy as there is not a lot of breathing room for the music at times. The mc’s tend to be a bit long winded at times and with each one waiting their turn, tracks can become long true time investments. Other than slight problems which all music has its important you check them out. My personal favorite is 2003’s “Lost in the Real Sky”. With a new album on the way we will see how this group pushes it further.
June 1, 2009
Ex members of rock group Gruvis Malt find a calling that is less indebted to the present or future and more revels in the past. Now im certainly not saying that they are some kind of folk group or classic rock revivalists but their decade of choice just happens to be one that twenty somethings may remember very well.
Video games, saturday morning cartoons and a hint of prog rock make up this three piece self described “action/adventure” band. Drums, bass and keyboard fill out the sound without you ever wondering why theres no lead guitar. Hate the bleeps and bloops of chip tune or the endless video game covers? well then rest assured that none of these exist here. High energy, thoughtful song structures and excellent musicianship is what you recieve time in and time out and thats a winning combo in my book.
Debut “Chase Scenes 1-14” is an excellent first effort but perhaps suffers a bit from sounding “samey” with songs running together and production that leaves you scratching your head as to what your really hearing. Aside from this its a very self assured release that is of course bested by its follow up. “Worlds” marks a culmination of ideas split into smaller “suites” and tends to be a much more diverse and dynamic affair. However both have their merits and should be checked out accordingly. In any event this is a band that should be checked out as soon as you can. If you are also unfamiliar with previous project “Gruvis Malt” do yourself a favor and check out “Maximum Unicorn” trust me.
May 28, 2009
You mean to tell me this takes its influences, internalizes them, then adds their own character to it? God after sifting through many of the new vangaurd of pointless math rock this is a welcome breath of fresh air. At times reminiscent of Hella at their most frantic and Cap’n Jazz when things cool down but without sounding like either one too much, this is serious stuff.
Guitars, while maybe not as incredibly complex as some peers, use space well and only clutters (clutter in a great way) notes where it seems needed shifting between pretty runs and almost blues influenced playing.
Now these drums for me are the gem in the sceptre. They dance around the guitar at an inhuman speed litering these pieces with devilish fills. 9 times out of 10 if the guitar is playing some chunky chord progression the drums are pouring hot lava over them playing like an unhinged mad man. Although even the drums know how to reign it in for slower sections with the help of keyboard (played at the same time) which works to the groups advantage.
You can talk about influences all you want. The fact is this is a band thats only going to get better and better with each turn. Truthfully I just wanted to write “please go to myspace and buy this” because its really that good, do yourself a favor you deserve good music in your life.
Rating: A Breakfast Pizza, because lets face it they are delish but when was the last time you had one?
Sounds like: Awesome
May 27, 2009
Memorable post hardcore math rock doesn’t grow on trees these days. At the fore front are certainly the boys in Damiera who have been at it for a couple years now (since 2005) With an excellent starter ep and full length deput “M(us)ic” it seemed as though the group was ready for a new deserved level of respect.
Enter problems. “Quiet Mouth Loud Hands” their 2007 release, lets face it, is about 40 steps backwards and does everything to hurt what they had built previously. Boring song structures, goofy lyrics, tame instrumentation and songs that lack their own flare often sounding like poor imatations of more popular acts (read as: Maroon 5 with something to prove). This would be forgivable but its harder to ignore 4 line up changes in 4 years making it clear who the conductor of the train really is, guitar/vocalist Dave Raymond. Not too mention getting dropped recently from Equal Vision (not that theres anyone good there besides Fall of Troy, still)
With all the ups and downs it would be way to easy to say that this would sign an end to a great band. The question is more so can one man replace and replace without consequence? Its been done before so we’ll just have to wait and see what lies ahead.