Posts Tagged ‘math rock’

Jorge Arana Trio — Mapache (2012)

Posted: February 23, 2013 by Is This Revolutionary? in Album, Reviews
Tags: , , , , , ,

MapacheOkay, so I honestly don’t know what I could or should say about these guys. Typically, I like talking about the structure of the music as well as the similarities I find shared with other artists, but I really have no idea where to start with JAT.
Next, I’m not really sure how to classify them. Are they jazzy math rock? Or maybe they’re mathy jazz (rock?).
For my own curiosity, I asked Jorge (the band) what their influences were (among a slew of other questions), and got a response from Jorge (the man) in which among his cited influences were Arnold Schoenberg and Charles Mingus. Now I start to get it. For those unfamiliar, check out those links. Any musician worth his weight in cassettes should know who both artists are. Schoenberg was an expressionist composer of the early 20th century, while Mingus existed more towards the middle of the century as a jazz composer. Both were hugely influential to their respective movements. As a matter of fact, Schoenberg was responsible for a lot of major developments in atonality, and for the conception of the twelve-tone technique, which were prominent features of music in the early twentieth century. Mingus is often regarded as the successor of Duke Ellington with his incredible compositional abilities and unique style. If you haven’t already made the connection, listen to Mapache as well as the Schoenberg and Mingus pieces above. I wouldn’t necessarily claim that these two composers are Jorge’s (the band or the man) biggest influences, but you can certainly hear some similarity.
If you’re both unfamiliar with the two and unable/unwilling to check them out, I’ll do my best to describe my rationale for the comparison. JAT dabbles fiercely with tonality and the lack thereof. The cerebral quality in “Bitter Era” that I referred to earlier is just that. The melodic structure is unabashedly coarse and dissonant. Texturally, you can take from them what you want. Each of the instruments functions just as well on its own as it does in conjunction with the ensemble. Not one is afraid to go off and do his thing; like true jazz musicians, each individual thing is still beyond fully functional as a part to amass to a greater whole. You get a real sense of an improv jazz band, which I personally find impressive on a (presumably) rehearsed and recorded album. Compositionally, the album is a bit of a beast. Dissonance is elevated to an artform. If you like consonance, if you look for your standard one-four-five-one, if you like sweet and smooth, go home. This is not a cry from the Ivory Tower; as I said at the beginning, I switched it off after a very cursory listening, simply because I wasn’t in the mood. If you’ll allow me to remove my scarf and horn-rimmed glasses for a moment, I’d like to make mention that I can indulge in Penderecki and Oliveros for their musicality. I’m not afraid of the abstruse or unconventional; I do, however like a warning. This is that.
The Jorge Arana Trio takes a very agressive approach to jazz in Mapache. This isn’t easy listening. This isn’t coffee shop music (or at the very least, not the music of any coffee shop I’ve yet been to). As I was saying, this is dissonance on steroids. If you plan on listening, you need to go in knowing you won’t always get the resolution you want. JAT will tease you, and they’re very good at it. They will grab you, throw you around the scale, throw you out of the scale, yank you back in, and beat your brains in before they resolve their progressions, if they resolve their progressions.
Another admirable trait is their progressiveness. I guess it goes without saying that a jazz band with such modernist influence is going to be progressive. Even with that expectation, even with this organized chaos, you would anticipate some themes, some motifs, some revisitation.
nopeNeedless to say, I’ve taken a long time to write this review. In that time, I’ve listened to this album quite a few times. The closest it comes to being repetitive is in its final track, “Ether,” in which the guitar/bass/keyboard motif can be heard through most of the track. Even still, in the closing track, in what should be the resolution to all the madness, the breaking of the storm, the consonance that we’ve so badly desired and quite frankly have earned from the beginning, they hold out on us. The guitar and drums go nuts from start to finish. While they might make it easier at some points than others, the sole purpose of such is to hook you in to bring you along for the ride. And what a ride it is. This is easy listening, isn’t it? (Please refer to the above image.) The melody is more tangible, maybe. The disorder is still there, though. All of it. The motif gives the impression of smooth(er) jazz without pulling any punches.
Okay, okay. Even the last track is intense. Surely, it’ll end on a major chord, right? It has to end on something consonant, something sweet, something resolute. It simply must.
…Right?
Please refer to the above image one more time.

So…? So I’ve said a lot of things. I’ve made a lot of references to a lot of dead musicians that aren’t exactly familiar to the layman. I talked nonstop about dissonance. I basically told you that this music is good for reasons that I understand and you wouldn’t because I’m cultured and you’re all philistines and blah blah blah look at me I studied music.
One of my biggest fears in life is showing someone music I admire, and seeing that they can’t appreciate it. Seriously. Devastating. A lot of the time, should one not appreciate it, it is because he was not adequately prepared to listen to the music. It’s like really good hot sauce. When you find a sauce with good flavor and good heat, you want to share it. You can’t just pour it on your buddy’s food without at least telling him first, though. In the same way, you don’t turn up Glassjaw while he’s napping. It’s just not fair, and he’ll be trained to hate it. Just as a good hot sauce might make you tear up a bit, JAT may take you out of your comfort zone. It will do so with good cause, though. It might hurt at first, but it’ll feel good by the end. That’s why Mapache gets four kegs.

4kegs

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-A.

Piglet to Release New? Music and Merch

Posted: January 4, 2013 by Is This Revolutionary? in News
Tags: , , ,

Okay, so the Mayans were wrong. Or we read their calendar wrong. Basically, someone screwed up. Either way, the world didn’t end on December 21st, so I hope you didn’t blow your savings on throwing the sweetest apocalypse party or on post-rapture pet care services.

While the whole “world not ending” thing may have been the best news the 21st brought some, there was another gem that brought joy to approximately three hundred people.

Chicago math rock trio Piglet announced on their Facebook page the day of our reckoning that they will be releasing a “new/old unreleased album” as well as their Lava Land EP on vinyl sometime this year. This announcement comes just a few days shy of the eighth anniversary of the initial release of Lava Land, which was released at the beginning of 2005.

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From the first time I heard “Bug Stomp,” I could never understand why these guys had such a seemingly small fan base. While they have a restricted catalog, there is no good reason for it to have not reached the ears of a much broader audience. They might be the most well-balanced math rock band I have ever heard, countering blistering intensity with gorgeous intricacy. I use the term “balance” cautiously; often, balance has the connotation of compromise. I cannot stress enough how much this is not the case here. At no point do they make any sacrifices for the sake of accessibility or showmanship, and the resulting product is one of exquisite form and function.

Anyway, no further information is currently available on the new/old album or the vinyl. More details will likely come to light once the Kickstarter goes up. As I am very excited for the upcoming release, any developments will be posted here.

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-A.

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It’s been a month and a day since The Night Wears A Sombrero, where B. and I had the good fortune to meet and watch a performance from Oculesics. I guess now would be a good time to get this review going.

Never Odd or Even is the Connecticut-based math rock outfit’s debut album, released in July 2011, and it has a ton to offer. The seven-track album is about thirty-four minutes long, and starts off with a one and a half minute-long track titled “There’s Only One ‘I’ In Selfish,” which is very telling of what the rest of the album has in store. In ninety-two seconds, it touches upon every section of the self-imposed “postexperimentalmathyjazzrock” label very nicely before it flows seamlessly into “Space Nails!.”

Seamless transition is a persistent theme throughout the album. Tracks like “So Strange A Noise. . .” and “Ed Booth’s A Scumbag. . .” break away from this theme, having very definitive ends, though as independent tracks, their dynamics necessitated these distinctions. They even served well, being placed in the middle of the album, to further establish the experimental theme of the album as a whole, allowing for a new form of variety. That said, I listened to this album a lot in circumstances in which I wouldn’t pay any mind to the track numbers, listings, or lengths, like while driving. As a result, I found myself frequently thinking “I wonder when this song is going to end.” Upon looking at my mp3 player, I would realize I was almost at the end of the next track more often than not. That is not to say the music at any point felt like it was dragging. On the contrary, I was so enveloped most of the time that I had no idea where I was temporally in the music. In writing Never Odd or Even, Oculesics was fully capable of seeing the forest for the trees, and what beautiful foliage they produced. It’s the type of forest whose landscape continually inspires you to keep walking, to pay no mind to how far you’ve walked or how late it’s getting, to take it in for all it has to offer. With the same sentiment, the album ends with a simple, unexpected (though not abrupt) release, leaving you content in knowing you’ve experienced the whole of it, though further content in knowing you can still go back and discover more. It’s a similar feeling to waking up after a long night of pleasant dreaming to the warm rays of a sunrise. It just happens, and it feels good.

So…? I wore my heart on my sleeve this entire review. They share characteristics of early Tera Melos (a cited influence of theirs) and late Flaming Tsunamis, which are my favorite stages of two of my favorite bands. They also fulfill one of my key factors in distinguishing good math rock bands from really good math rock bands, which is having at least one song that evokes memories of Metroid, which in this case is the transition from “Rotavator” to “Tulsa’s Mom’s a Slut.” Not to mention, the album title, as well as the last three track titles, are palindromes. AND the field of study from which they borrow their name could provide for conversation and contemplation for hours. Seriously, look into it. Everything about this band is cool. Four out of five kegs.

That's a lot of gunpowder.

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By the way, the album is available for free download from their Bandcamp profile, which I posted just above. I would strongly encourage getting your hands on it.

-A.