Review Summary: Tera Melos could've created the funnest noise of the year if they weren't so busy trying to be a pop band.
What the hell happened to math rock, anyway? Bands like Slint and Shellac were unabashedly disturbing, focusing their songs around dark repetition and tedious rhythmic patterns. Forerunners of the genre represented everything about minimalism, creating textured atmospheres with the most basic, fundamental tools. From that defining point the genre has expanded in, ironically enough, the most maximal way. The style has gone through numerous progressions ranging from the jubilant, angular instrumentals of bands in the vein of Giraffes? Giraffes! and Piglet, to the quirky indie pop of technically-minded groups a la Battles and Fang Island. Tera Melos marked their place in the genre with their unique self-titled record, expanding upon the genres usual wankery and tastefully including jazz dynamics and lush electronics. The album was rewarding in the way it went against the grain, incorporating crazed freakouts that channeled the essence of The Mars Volta combined with eery atmospherics. And now Tera Melos have embraced their technical skill and ran amok, leaving their previous aspects behind them.
is delightfully noisy and nothing about the instrumental work comes off as half-assed. The band's trademark shaky guitar riffs jangle through endless melodies, constantly switching up rhythm and tone. It's not like every track sounds like the grind of "Another Surf" or the mass reverberations of "Kelly"; the melodies are quite charming. However, each song holds common ground in that the instruments all feverishly avoid finding their niche throughout the record. Which is all fine, to be honest. The effects-laden guitars generate youthful energy, the unpredictability being idiosyncratic in all the right ways. But there's one tiny little inclusion present on this record that nulls all of the positive qualities previously mentioned: the vocals
While Patagonian Rats
is undeniably more frantic than their previous releases, the actual songs have a serious pop edge and the vocals seal this aspect, lazily dropping hook after another. One may assume they have taken the "Fang Island route" as far as their new vocal components go, but there is a heavy distinction seeing as Fang Island's self-titled brought in group vocals along with tightened songcraft, while the inclusion of indie pop singing on Tera Melos' new LP only highlights the incoherence of the record. It's the juxtaposition of endless mathy indulgence and earnest pop vocals that bring down this record and ruins its truly unique qualities. This isn't quite so noticeable as the first serious track "The Skin Surf" opens up, the vocals sounding reminiscent of surf-rock and flowing right along with the track. But as the album continues on and branches out, one can't help but feel that the vocalist is desperately trying to keep melodic while adapting with the crazy pace of the instruments and it just doesn't work. When emphasis is placed on the vocal hook, the instruments are plagued by their directionless nature. And in the context of the music the vocals sound meaningless, dropping melody after melody but never making their presence definable or interesting.
At the end, there's no sense to make of this record. The crooning melodies sound lifeless when matched up with the intense instrumentals. The guitars, on the other hand, sound amateurish and grating whenever a new motif is introduced. Due to the album's ever-changing nature, the most enjoyable moments come in small fragments. However, in context of the record, it doesn't make up for the sloppiness. It's sad because one can hear the lack of focus dedicated to individual aspects of the album, the record's different qualities being lazily mixed together. Patagonian Rats
could have been a fun-ass math-pop record if there wasn't a different vocal hook for every change in the music. They could've created a great noise rock record if they didn't compromise meandering silliness with earnest harmonies. When an individual track is picked out, the album's incoherent sound isn't immediately present. Nevertheless, when the album is played as a whole, there is absolutely no flow and it ends up being a collection of tunes that wander around overzealously and end up losing their sense of purpose. Patagonian Rats
is a disjointed piece of work, occasionally finding a sweet spot, but rarely making a statement.