Review Summary: Odd math-rock doesn't add up to much.
Though Upsilon Acrux often states their biggest influence as King Crimson, you'd be hard-pressed to notice it through listening to them. The San Diego trio, consisting of Jesse Klecker (drums), Paul Lai (guitars/moog) and Cameron Presley (guitars/moog), are math-rock to the core, invoking artists like Hella, Don Caballero and Orthrelm, and yet for some reason they are often pegged as prog. Their sound is usually consistent with two things: tonal guitar-play over spastic, quirky drumming, and atonal guitar play over spastic, quirky drumming. I much prefer the former to the latter, as do most seasoned math-rock bands; in a way, Upsilon Acrux feels out of their league on their sophomore release Last Train Out
Generally, Upsilon's ideas are obtuse; the drumming will start oddly enough, and the band will likely back it with either exceedingly odd melodic ideas or guitar noise. On some albums, I don't mind guitar noise if a lot of work is put into it, but here it sounds clumsy, with pick scraping, dead notes, and all sorts of other techniques generally relegated to the "screwing around" category. At its worst, Last Train Out
sounds like just that: three guys screwing around, with not a lot of actual ideas coming into the mix. This makes about half the songs rather generic and forgettable.
Yet sometimes, things come together. "Propeller" and "If Only the Freight Train Could Join the Band" in particular involve some sense of melody and make for more interesting listens. When the guitars are actually playing something technical, it is usually at least a bit thought-provoking, barring any stereotypical math-rock throwbacks, such as the end of "Intronics" which gives way to the band stuttering on the same chord in different multiples for a good thirty seconds. It's supposed to be amusing since the band is obviously counting all the times they're playing the chord, but despite that, it's one chord, and one repeating noise for thirty minutes can often get tiresome.
Overall, Last Train Out
rates just above average and just below relative greatness. There just isn't enough memorable here to warrant repeated listenings; it all feels generic and formulaic in comparison to many of Upsilon Acrux's math-rock peers. At their best, they manage to create something mildly interesting given a typical idea, and at their worst they seem like a chore to listen to. With so many other bands doing this sort of thing more creatively and interestingly, it's hard to say whether Last Train Out
warrants attention or not.