From the tension-mounting palm muted intro of opener Weird Circles to the cascading, rhythmic lead lines that coil around the delicate and almost angelic vocals from Nick Reinhart, there’s immediate evidence of a more grown up and self-aware Tera Melos at play on new album X’ed Out. Purists might find that this more accessible material instantly disassociates them from the California math rock pioneers, but this schizophrenic approach to pop is exactly what was required to prevent their tried and tested recipe from going stale.
Still parading a cavalcade of genres and influences from acid jazz to afrobeat by way of surf-rock, Reinhart and co have finally hit on the magic formula that circumnavigates cacophony in favour of structure and melody – and by buggery does it really enable this band to shine. Stripping back the self-indulgence and concentrating on the overarching sonics and structures has worked wonders and the trio succeed in sneakily toying with time signatures and complex musical arrangements almost as an afterthought to the wonderfully constructed pop songs on offer here. The beautiful drone of Bite avoids grating repetition and bubbles wonderfully along before melting into euphoric Snake Lake, which still showcases some of Tera Melos’ odder ideas and soundscapes, but succeeds in being a much grander and more marvellous affair than any previous efforts. That’s not to say that math fans won’t find anything to enjoy in the new material as there are still plenty of instrumental freak outs and acid flashback moments of stabbing, anxiety-filled tempo changes, but Tropic Lame probably serves best to showcase the more restrained style the band have chosen to adopt on the album with its rushing, then lurching, Dinosaur Jr-entangled melodies.
In essence this record serves as a perfect example of what can happen when you stop being afraid of simplification and is a satisfying reiteration of one of our favourites maxims – sometimes less is more – and Tera Melos really have come of age on this touching, beautiful and intelligent release. There are clandestine surprises lurking around every corner of each track and new listens reveal a plethora of onion-like layers to the production and musicianship on the album which make repeat spins a joy and a novelty, whilst enabling the songs to still retain a modicum of toe-tapping muscle memory bliss. Now content in the realisation that their audience already knows this band can play their instruments, freeing themselves from the shackles of million-mile-an-hour technicality has shown the true talent lying behind this band and should help them to break out of their restrictive niche in spectacular fashion.
Venue: X’ed Out
Support Band: Sargent House