MONOTROPE, IMMUTABLE FUTURE
“10s + 11s” announces clearly that this is a rock record. But don’t be mistaken, it’s a dissonant one. Swirling, dirty guitars dance around the pounding but off-kilter rhythm section. Riffs switch from distorted 2000’s era bluesy alt-rock to shuffles and licks you might hear on an Albini record. Next up, “Gilded Spectator” pulls us along at a slightly more driving pace, though not even yet midtempo. If this is post-metal, it is post-stoner doom. There’s a definite psych aspect. Polyrhythmic guitars play with each other, anchored by hard-hit drums with languid fills and meaty bass that arrives in little thumping bursts. There are stops and starts, but they are subtle.
That heavy bass tone alone kicks off “Grand Systemist.” We’re still in downtempo territory, tripping along in odd time. There’s a queasy lushness about the guitars as a relatively smooth bassline and hard hit drums set the pace. Melodically and harmonically Monothrope sounds like the halfway point between stoned Sonic Youth and stoned Shellac. Everything thus far is in minor. It’s dark music, cool, perfect for listening to at four a.m. on an early autumn morning, as I am. Rumbling, rolling drums lead to a thunderous, quick and marching conclusion.
In “Foliot” sorrowful, piano chords accompany the guitars, which picks up the pace slightly, with even a touch of warmth creeping in. Feedback squeaks through chugging guitars and rumbling drums and bass. In contrast,“Forty-Nine” sounds downright sunny. The bassline is warm, and on the higher end. The drums are still broken up, but even the guitars cheer up a bit. We hear plenty of play on the ride from the drummer, accenting stuttering beats. The guitars and bass loop around one another, and though they threaten to do so, building some nice tension, the band doesn’t break out of its slow-midtempo.
When “Prismatic Symmetry” begins, we know instantly we’re at the album’s climax. Dissonant but driving chords from the guitarists partner up with rumbling yet odd drums, and determined bass. The drums build, the hits coming in quicker and stranger intervals; halfway through the band catches on some pleasant melody and doesn’t let go; some crunchy-sounding licks duck in and out on the guitars. It’s fast-paced and though it’s one of the album’s longer songs, it’s over too quickly. Being a punk at heart, this may be my favorite track.
But then, also, Sonic Youth is one of my favorite bands, and while I wouldn’t draw a heavy comparison between that band Monotrope, there’s a definite similarity in the tone of the guitars, and that holds true on “Able Archer.” The drummer’s rhythms are quite different though. They have a decidedly jazzy quality. And then the album is very suddenly over. “Able Archer” is not a bad tune, but it seems like the least realized, and makes for a strange album closer. To be fair, it works as an afterthought, an epilogue. It’s just not how I thought the album would end. It’s a fun album, somewhere between the sounds of Dischord and Skin Graft Records, perhaps Cuneiform. I might call it math-sludge. I strongly recommend it.
author: Jonas A