Monotrope’s new record is a wondrously dense thatch of black thorns and I love it for that.
In case you’re just joining the show, the quartet, which should be storied by now, features a Touch and Go Records alumnus (who also happens to play in Bellini), a Pittsburgher and two members of Unraze. And, if you missed its 2017 debut, Unifying Receiver, the new LP, out tomorrow via New Atlantis and Ambition Sound, will gladly grab you by your scruff or your shirt-collar and catch you up to speed.
On Immutable Futures, the band is less interested in the prog-inspired movement or slow-drip percolation of post-rock than the knotted texture of it all. The seven guitar-driven compositions that flesh out the record don’t always take the listener on a journey through crescendo-ed heights and hidden valleys; instead of ebbing and flowing, things just take their time and ebb. (And ebb and ebb.) To that end, there are great, meandering opuses like “Grand Systemist,” an instrumental (the whole thing is sans vocals) that, at nearly nine minutes, ends at both precisely the same place it started and a million miles away.
I say that this record is thatched, also, for good reason. The guitar tone on the record walks the line between “clean” and distorted (the distinction is enticing to track) but the notes aren’t carefully delineated, as so much of math-rock can sometimes be. Rather, the two-guitar attack is frequently an exercise in blurring edges, of sound-painting with color instead of time, of smattering out a series of cluttered notes with little regard for where they land. Or so that’s what these guys want you to believe. It’s a deceptive little trick. Listen to “Foliot,” where the angularity of the guitars gets cranked up, and you can hear the aural damage these guys do when they sharpen the blade and land on the same dime. Think Eleven Eleven by way of Dianogah by way of a punch to the face.
There also is a surprising density to the disc. Tracks like “Prismatic Symmetry” or “Gilded Spectator,” whose interlaced bass/guitar tension calls to mind late-period/Brown-Grubbs-McEntire Bastro, seems to be totally at odds with opener “10s and 11s,” where chiming guitars on quieter passages hint at King’s Daughters and Sons. But Monotrope make it work. (McEntire mixed this thing at Soma, for what it’s worth.)
The record closes not with an epic but a paraphrased set of explosions – the roiling energy and tumult of “Able Archer.” It’s an interesting, if off-handed, closer, almost an afterthought, another attempt at sleight of hand, maybe, to let you think the record is less consciously constructed than it really is. I have no doubt about it, though: Monotrope knows exactly what the fuck it’s doing – and then some.