Monday, September 18, 2006
Dysrhythmia—Barriers and Passages (Relapse)
I thought Pretest, this number-crunching instrumental trio's debut for Relapse, was a bit drab, but this follow-up triumphs over it in all aspects. I don't know whether the catalyst was their new bassist, Colin Marston (also of Behold...the Arctopus) or the switch to producer Martin Bisi (who captures the action in near-pornographic detail), but they've really ramped it up here. Like Don Caballero, they're working with guitar/bass/drums in the Mule-approved tech-punk-avant-prog manner. Their playing is more ensemble-based, though, with the emphasis on punishingly tight unison passages. No instrument is emphasized over the others—the guitar spazzes out, the bass grinds away, and the drums snap-crackle-pop. Opening track "Pulsar" is a moody overture to introduce "Appeared at First," where we get a true picture of the 36-minute assault on restraint and musical politeness that awaits. The rest of the album rains down in a storm of jagged grooves and micro-sections, pieced together carefully enough to avoid the unmusical rut-digging to which lesser bands with equally advanced chops might succumb. For every "Seal/Breaker/Void"—the album's centerpiece that fuses punk/noise/postrock/black metal (!)—there's a "Kamma Niyama," which could almost be a TV theme tune, given its wickedly abrasive take on the type of hooky melodicism that Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet peddled. The dissonant guitar drones of "Sleep Decayer" are what Bisi's old clients Sonic Youth might sound like with a less sleepy rhythm section, while "Luminous" offers a calming ambient antidote—just guitars tolling random notes amidst echo and gentle feedback. "Will the Spirit Prevail" races to the album's finish with more breakneck action. Dysrhythmia are smashing old barriers, blasting new passages, and making towering art out of the splinters and the rubble.