Review Summary: “All is a riddle, and the key to a riddle...is another riddle.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
The dense, driving bass riffs that regularly coat the backgrounds of these songs automatically give one an idea of the driving and dark melodies that Ed Schrader’s Music Beat builds a number of their songs upon. These fuzzy basslines are accompanied by tight percussion, vibrant vocals, and synthetic drones. All these pieces contribute to sharp and engagingly strange compositions, full of flavorful variations, which is found in the tracklist’s pre-planned eclecticness, and impressive precision. Each song, from the frantic “Dizzy Devil” to the sweepingly ethereal “Humbucker Blues,” is different enough to give an interesting take on the group’s style, but still cohesive enough to portray a consistent theme of mystery.
This theme is built from the haunting melodies of “Tom,” “Wave To The Water,” and “Culebra,” and the intense, high octane post-punk tracks like “Rust,” “Dunce,” and “Riddles.” The large amounts of variety on this record highlight the uncertainty of the experience. It’s adrenaline-pumping in some moments, yet harrowing in others. Ed Schrader’s Music Beat also has a tendency to wear its influences on its sleeve, from new wave like Modern English, Alien Sex Fiend, and Joy Division to noise rock like Sonic Youth and The Jesus Lizard. Rather than relying on these influences, as many do, Music Beat manages to mold them into something that feels fresh and invigorating, without losing the very obvious homages to past genres. This darkly lit romp uses these elements from the past, as well as contemporary ideas, to craft an experience that embodies the previously mentioned mystery, creating dream-like experiences such as “Radiation Kid.”
It’s passionate and grandiose, yet it backs up its bold feelings with interesting ideas and engaging foundations, such as the previously mentioned bass work and the complex drumming. The group proves that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, they know how to use various genres to create bountiful atmospheres and enthralling themes of life and how frustratingly hazy it can be. Riddles
can only be described as a passion project fueled by anger, sadness, confusion, and hope. It's a tumultuous ride that reflects the the life and times of both Ed Schrader and Devlin Rice, while also maintaining a complex system of stimulating themes and experiments. The record feels like a dream, but it also feels extremely real.