Posts Tagged ‘math rock’


Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

This Quiet LP
Self-released, 2010

The debut album by this Austin quartet has been slowly wrapping its tentacles around my DNA since its release earlier this month. At first listen, their influences came in loud and clear, with aggro Hot Snakes riffs and clever Les Savy Fav songwriting prowess backed by a rock-solid Drive Like Jehu rhythm section. Further in, Markov also evokes the better moments of John Reis’ and Rick Frohberg’s pre-Hot Snakes, pre-Drive Like Jehu band Pitchfork, with a more direct attack from the gut that doesn’t get too mired in cerebral approaches to methodically dispensed hardcore aggression. There’s also a nice rambling Barkmarket quality to the delivery of the vocals, with a pinch of mania and a looseness that ebbs and flows with waves of soaring guitar, both pleading and demanding, often at the same time. Beyond these reference points, Markov — named after a famed Russian mathematician — have formulated a uniquely potent mixture of these influences that give them an x-factor that elevates their music well above any dismissive math-rock comparisons their moniker or cover art might suggest. You can stream This Quiet at the link below, but I recommend picking up a digital copy (only $5) in order to fully understand the intricacies and charm of this band.


Buy digital album at Bandcamp
Markov on MySpace

Phantom Tollbooth

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Phantom Tollbooth
Homestead Records, 1986

Considering the year, the debut album from New York nutjobs Phantom Tollbooth could be considered an influencial landmark of screamo mathcore — had anyone heard the fucker. Their back catalog was a mainstay of cutout bins throughout the late eighties and nineties, probably the result of slightly weaker follow-up records and the lack of audience for the sort of selflessly unhinged and intensely cerebral hardcore The Tollbooth was dishing up. You can trace back the explosion of fractured mathy hardcore in the 1990s and early 2000s to this record, as demonstrated with bands like The Dazzling Killmen, Last of the Juanitas, and Brass Knuckles for Tough Guys. With discordant shards of guitar and jazzed-up rhythm section that wouldn’t find much of an audience until a decade later, this record should be considered a reference point for the evolution of hardcore punk.


Phantom TollboothPhantom Tollbooth LP (21.1MB)


Friday, July 24th, 2009

Gag Box / Unwind 7″
Spangled Records, 1992

The last posting got me thinking about another great math rock band from Chicago. And even though they’ve got one of the most boring band names you’re ever gonna hear, Table put out one of the best singles of the early ’90s. It’s got all the elements of your average math rock band: muttering detached vocals, fragmented shards of clanging guitar, and a propulsive rhythm section that’s all business. But Table takes these basic elements and goes a step further than most by giving their songs sustained tension and texture instead of the standard tension/release, loud/soft manipulations found with lesser bands. In particular, their thick, gnarled bass sound really sets them apart, almost approaching funk bass territory while still firmly planted within the rigid metronome of math rock. So even though their name has never been tossed around as much as Shellac, Tar, or 90 Day Men, everything Table put out was on par with those other Chicago legends.


Table – “Gag Box”
Table – “Unwind”

Unofficial Table page on MySpace

The Great Brain

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

Ray / Half-Decayed 7″
Faye Records, 1995

We live in weird times. Record shops close by the dozen, but there’s vinyl at your local Best Buy and nearly every obscure, fractionalized sub-genre that sputtered through speakers for a few brief moments over a decade ago in maddeningly short supply gets resurrected and posted by one of a handful of people who remember or at least give a shit. So while I mourn the closing of many record stores and often long to flip through the stacks of those long-gone music mini-meccas, I’m also grateful to live in a day and age when a lazy Google search or bumbling web surfing yields a score that many years of crate digging never procured. Such is the case with this long lost math rock group, The Great Brain, whose Algorithm CD I came across while catching up on some of the fine postings over at Built On A Weak Spot. For years, I anxiously awaited an album by this Chicago group after hearing this 7″ release, but I never kept tabs on them in those dark, pre-internet days, so I never even knew that they’d managed to get an album out. At the time, the midwest was full of math rock bands usin’ their noggins to complicate and control the energy of hardcore punk with deconstructed riffs precisely arranged and played with a musical virtuosity that most punk bands couldn’t (or wouldn’t) achieve. What makes The Great Brain noteworthy is that they were able to keep a frayed, loose edge to their sound that most bands of similar ilk would smooth and/or polish over. Their sound has a gut-level umph to it that many bands of the genre lacked. “Ray” falls somewhere in between the loose jangle of Pavement and the jazzy aggressiveness of St. Louis greats The Dazzling Killmen, pairing catchy choruses with shouted bursts of nervy noise. The flipside, “Half Decayed,” completely ditches any hint of math rock with wavering twangs of oddball guitar that simmer into a straight-up, collegiate guitar rager. Check ’em out, and if you’re ready to hear The Great Brain get Captain Beefheart weird on you, give their Algorithm CD a spin…

The Great Brain – “Ray”
The Great Brain – “Half-Decayed”

The Great Brain’s Algorithm at Built On A Weak Spot


Monday, May 18th, 2009

How The Winter Was Passed 7″
Three Little Girls, 1993

Although not as essential as their sole album Rusty, this rarely-heard single from one of Louisville’s indie rock supergroups offers a snapshot of this legendary group in larval form. I was lucky enough to experience Rodan live during their short existence and they left a huge impression on me that’s never been overshadowed by its members’ later bands, like June of 44, The Sonora Pine, Rachel’s, The Shipping News, and Tara Jane O’Neil‘s solo work, even though they went on to acclaim and a prolific catalog of releases. Rodan was often dismissed as a Slint knock off, which was understandable since they were also from Louisville, and they also employed many of the same tools Slint was famous for, like dramatic dynamic shifts in volume and complex song compositions. But where Slint could be harrowing and introspective (Spiderland) or erratic and irreverent (Tweez), Rodan maintained a steadfast composure that was fully realized, beautifully crafted, and in effect, delivered with more force than their Louisville brethren. This may or may not be a good thing depending on how you feel about Slint, but in my opinion, any group that’s able to even approach the sonic terrain Slint mastered is well worth checking out.


Rodan – “Milk & Melancholy”
Rodan – “Exoskeleton”