Being somewhat predisposed to punkier music, I have always seen ‘prog’ through a rather cynical eye. Partly this is a problem of connotations that come as standard with progressive rock; over-indulgent guitar soloing, beards and fantasy themed concept albums with introductions from Saruman (via Christopher Lee)
The great paradox of prog rock is that by nature it should at some time have progressed since its conception. In reality it has become stagnant; little difference can be found between prog band elders such as Rush, Yes and Genesis and more modern bands like Dream Theater (Ugh Americanized spelling…) and Rhapsody.
This brings me then to band’s which have left behind the pomposity and often associated with the genre and have as such progressed themselves. Though I hate the term and believe it is a misnomer ‘math-rock’ is often used to categorise some of the bands I will be talking about today. Whilst technically untrue there is a commonly held belief that maths and science are somehow divorced from ‘art’, thus math-rock’ is somehow in opposition to art-rock a ‘superior’ form of music.
Of course there are many so-called math-rock bands that sound pretty soulless (I for one have never understood the appeal of bands like Hella and Lightning Bolt) but today I shall brush them aside and consider the tin-men of math rock who despite their categorisation do have a heart, albeit one made of velvet.
Adebisi Shank are a 3 piece hailing from Dublin who play instrumental mathy-rocky-noisy-goodness in the vein of Melt Banana only less spazzy and minus vocals. Since hearing their debut ‘This is an EP of a Band Called Adebisi Shank’ I have heard very little music that is as fresh and exhilarating. Although they take cues from 80’s guitar icon/washed-up rocker (delete as appropriate) Eddie Van Halen I have heard little music that is a fresh and exiting as theirs.
‘Horse’ is possibly one of my favourite pieces of music that I have ever heard; jam packed full of riffs, hefty FX pedal abuse and driving powerful drums. Of particular note is the ‘solo’ at 1.40 with enough pedal tweaking to make Tom Morello blush which then morphs into a euphoric breakdown.
As you may know from I have a tricky relationship (‘It’s complicated’ as Facebook would have it) with post-rock, much of it sounding rather tired despite its relative youth as a genre. Vessels buck this trend by placing the emphasis – heavily upon ‘rock’ (of the mathy variety) – beefing up the weedy post rock sound with deep bass, monolithic riffs a la Pelican and occasional synthesisers and electronics.
That said there is a fair amount of ‘noodling’ though it is never aimless or gratuitous, complex staccato guitar lines interweave between hypnotically, evolving over the course of the song giving a real feel of a proper structure. In terms of existing reference points the easiest way to describe Vessels to imagine the bastard child of 65daysofstatic, Tortoise and Battles.
Alternatively you could just enjoy the track below and bask in the awesomeness of their musicianship. Enjoy.
That said, if you’re anything like me you’re probably listening on some shitty laptop speakers. In order to really appreciate the full dynamic range (and believe me its a range)and volume of Vessels go and see them live. On both the occasions I have seen them (Brainwash 2009 and Live At Leeds 2010) they completely blew my mind. Not to be missed.
The excellently named That Fucking Tank are also from Leeds but take a much more minimal approach to their music in both terms of music and band members. Whereas Vessels are six strong, there are but two of That Fucking Tank. It should follow that with more members comes more noise and thus one would expect TFT to be a more relaxed affair. Not so it seems, their name perfectly suiting the unstoppable inertia of the baritone guitar/drums duo.
The beats and riffs deployed tend to be fairly minimalistic, yet often heavily syncopated making the music deceivingly simple yet maintaining a ‘groove’, something which some (though much loved) bands of this ilk lack such as Don Cabbalero.
Head over to their myspace and check out their tunes!
Anyway, enough talk of progress, heres some 70’s style heavy metal regression in the mould of Witch (Dinosaur Jr. guitar wizard J. Mascis on drums I must add).
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