Happy New Year (two weeks ago)! I finally got around to ushering in 2008 (a fortnight late) with a new volume of “Indie Lexicon”, aiming to volumize your vocabulary, plump your perspicacity, and straighten your senses relating to musical genres. Hopefully I can do this without stealing any more adjectives from my shampoo bottle.

Math Rock

Math rockers are a lovable, slightly abrasive, nerdy bunch of hipsters. Cousin to space- and noise-rock, its heavier big brother is known as mathcore (a name which amuses me to an extent where I can’t actually appreciate the music it encompasses). The definitive aspect of math rock is the rhythm. Instead of using 4/4 common time, math-ies usually play with asymmetrical time signatures. Also, most popular music will subtly switch the signature 2-3 times in a song, while math rock is known for frequent dissonant, jumpy transitions. What this means to us non-musical-non-math kids: instead of the tune playing over the regular beat of the drums, the rhythm becomes a large focus of the music. Usually layered with this geometric-sounding drum pattern are synthesizers, screechy guitar, and the occasional frenetic vocals, although a lot of math rock is instrumental. The overall effect is sometimes chaotic, often jarring, but almost always interesting.

I’m not completely versed with the genealogy of this field, but it all kind of started out with art-rockers like Frank Zappa, Yes, Rush, etc. When it developed into a more distinct category, some key contributors (bringing an edgier feel than its artsier predecessors) were Drive Like Jehu, Q and not U, and Shellac. As for more recent examples: Last year Battles released a stellar album in the genre, “Mirrored”. Definitely worth more than one listen. Mahjongg are soon to officially release Kontpab, which I’ve checked out already. I don’t think it will stay in my permanent listening repertoire, but it fits in well with the category.

Battles – Snare Hanger
Battles – Ddiamondd

Mahjongg – Wipe Out

Finally, although they aren’t pure math rock, Holy Fuck’s 2007 EP and LP were certainly numerically influenced with their organic lo-fi electronic goodness.  Here’s the vid for Milkshake, apparently directed by Chad VanGaalen (news to me).


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— , January 15, 2008    2 Comments