“Armistice” – ‘Mute Math’
Whenever I even begin to even fathom reviewing “Armistice”, some immeasurable hurdle, obstacle or distraction, draws me away from even beginning. Although it’s not officially musically-related, this would have to be the fifth time I’ve tried to review “Armistice” because I just get lost in its lack of definition.
But, getting ahead of myself, this week saw the anti-repetition of earlier this year, during the Great Musical Drought of June-July. This month alone, we as reviewers, and hopefully you as readers, have witnessed a majority of high-class albums that are far beyond impressive, deserving further recognition. Although we do tend to target bands we’ve heard of if they manage to pump out something worthwhile, it has always been my attempt – though unsuccessful as some might appear – to review someone or something that’s pushing different buttons than our favourites. We’re looking for that new music, yes. But I like to look for potential-pioneers, “gunn’s” in waiting – all’s they need is a push in the right direction: ‘TBD’ for instance.
Last week I was totally in awe, I had for the first time this year, a solid twenty albums in my pending-folder alone, waiting for a play-through. It was only after that, after the so called ‘presipice’, that I finally realised that these albums were well-below the average par. The “epic-to-crap” ratio had finally been outweighed, suddenly me and my counterpart were looking at worthless albums not even worth a second thought. We’d learnt from our mistakes last time round that it’s always good to keep a few ‘jokers’ up our sleeves, seeing as all the ‘aces’ are quickly snatched up and reviewed. There was even some discrepancy over this weeks Joint Review for Sunday, and after some diligence, we decided on a side-project: but you’ll read about that later in the week.
I said in the opening of my review – which was quite openly blunt – that I thought the album lacked overall definition. I’ve come across a few shiners this year, and I’ve been overly critical for genre-hoppers ever since I came across them. Some of us like the consistency of an album, or even an artist, so when they finally break that routine, that cliche, they either fail miserably, or they triumphantly succeed. And I think, as far as ‘Mute Math’ goes, they seem to have dealt with this shock so effectively, that it’s like listening to several artists all at once, piled together in one glorious whole. We saw this aspect present in ‘Dappled Cities’, which I’ll continue to example because they’re effective – and I’ll quote from ‘Mute Math’s’ http://www.last.fm homepage which states:
“… Giddily swiping ideas from several decades’s worth of alternative rock… Mute Math at times recall New Order’s synth-dance-epics, the shambling shuffle of the Stone Roses and the rest of the Manchester scene, the spiky chillness of prime Radiohead, Air’s serene ambient pop, and… the booming vocals of mainstream alt-rockers of the post-Eddie Vedder era…”
And if you like reviews that are quick and to the point, that just about sums up what you’ll expect from ‘Mute Math’. I’ll continue on anyhow, because it’s the fine-details in the construction of their music, or just the tracks themselves, which you might be interested to know, and they follow incongruously with their fellow accompaniments. Genre-wise, ‘Mute Math’ seems unphased to experiment with various styles. It has, to some degree, elements that I would find in indie, and although they’re not so prominent when they go off and play with synth, they do occasionally flaunt this raw, malleable sound whenever possible. I so eagerly want to start from the end of the album, because this is where – strange enough – the album picks up.
From the top, “The Nerve” opens for ‘Mute Math’, and this is why I included some sort of inter-textual reference to ‘The Bavarian Druglords‘ because it has this very raw, this very lo-fi/hollow-rock feel to it. Background riffs are cheekily-composed to work harmoniously with the shake-and-shuffle of the percussion, and it’s like running down a hill: the pace of the song is so quick that crescendos are like jumping off a cliff, and choruses are like running into trees. These reminiscent-qualities that “The Nerve” holds to artists like ‘The Bavarian Druglords’ are only similar in musical-composition, lyrically and vocally, they differ significantly. It’s still worth a mention, because when we get to “Backfire”, the following track, we’re in a different town.
“Backfire” is like listening to the overly glamorised rock/alternative/pop scene that seems to take the world by storm with childish-vocalisation, un-intimate lyrics and girlish-highs that make you all funny inside. The riffs in the background are the only consistency that I find the first and second hold, and that’s because it works so well with the percussion; I’m paraphrasing, I know, but I just want to emphasise the fact that these two core elements are the driving force behind “Armistice” on a whole. Same crescendos, chorus, cheeky-percussion – I don’t know how to put it, it’s just something I’m feeling from the music, just like the cheeky-funk ‘Friendly Fires’ had last week.
“Clipping” sees the real first inclusion of proper, unsophisticated, pure-in-a-way, synth. There’s just this wavy band of riff-like ambience, and it hobbles along on the odd-numbered beats, giving the song a slow-and-steady pace. It’s a real ‘Kyte’-sound-alike, and that’s because it seems to utilise the elements of shoegaze to meet its needs. Though the genre shoegaze isn’t something I like to apply to this style of music, it is really only mildly seen throughout, and not overly obvious.
I’m going to skip to the near-end of the album and take a look at “Odds”, and it’s not one of those songs that I would put with the openers. That’s because it’s got the intimacy of ‘Ramona Falls’ and ‘Wild Beasts’, though not so much in experimentation as it does in a one-on-one situation. The reduction of musical-backing means that in between the chorus’, it’s just you and the voice. When things get really interesting, it’s back to that percussion, with the same swish-swash of snare, synthesised clapping and ambient xylophone. It really does make for an interesting combinations and it is one of my favourites.
And now to the track that has me shaking in my chair – it’s that good that it’s nudging on legendary-status. I begged for my counterpart to have a listen to the album on a whole, and especially the last track “Burden”, which epitomises epic in the sense of grand. It is a lengthy track, it tops 9:05, and it has to be, this year, the only worthwhile ten-minute-whereabouts track that has really hit it off for me. Although I suspect he enjoyed it, this song really is the equivalent of ‘Sugar Army’s’ “Tongues In Cheeks”, and it’s got this real driving force of percussion and guitar that’s present in all the rock/alternative influenced songs. I don’t know what most people expect from a song of this length, but usually when I see one, I ask myself:
“Why waste your time on one song when you could listen to two in the same time-span?”
Disregard that question and take a listen, peoples: brilliant. It has the elements of ‘TBD’ in the sense that its beginning has that same lo-fi/hollow-rock feel. But when it hits the mid-half of the song, we see a reduction in all the musical backing, until we’re left with a sole voice and fleeting ambience. It’s so marvellously composed because it’s anti-climatic climax is all about reduction rather that explosion, drawing you into a false sense of security and then BAM! At the 4:45 mark, here’s where we see ‘Mute Math’ touch on that faraway star called legend. Just this synthesised organ, and this resonant voice. I just love it because it really does strike a chord with myself, the way it sounds: it touches the soul.
I personally feel that quoting the lyrics just doesn’t do the song justice. It’s a real sit-down-and-listen-for-yourself scenario. I highly recommend it, even if it’s just for “Burden”. The album is substantially long, I will admit, and accompanying the main body of the album are three bonus tracks which I think ruin this fantastic ending. I won’t go into detail because I don’t think there’s need to. I’m going to have to give it a four-star, it just scrapes through for me.
The Enantiomorphic God