Review Summary: A winning formula receives improvements.
Is there any truth left to bands touting their newest material? Plenty of buzzwords are tossed around whenever a release schedule comes around—transcendental, the undeniable finest, an experimental journey, whatever adjectives sound captivating enough. The obvious counter to this is that fans wouldn’t necessarily appreciate brutal honesty. Imagine a math teacher going about their day instructing their pupils on geometrical proofs then turning around, shrugging, and saying, “I’ve really no clue what any of this means or why it matters. You will never see this again.” Much like if a black metal act receiving inquiries about their latest work replied: “Beats me, we just slapped some trems together, probably gonna be the same thing we did before. Hail Satan,” it’s more than likely the audience checks out and takes a snooze in the back of the classroom. Connecticut collective The Most fit the bill in both regards; their sophomore effort, four years after their modest debut, has been described by the band themselves as a labor of love and intense concentration. Their primary aesthetic also happens to revolve around jam-oriented math rock, and I’ve yet to be tasked with an algebraic conundrum when at the grocery line check-out or encountering Grumpy Customer #46 while on the daily grind, so my listening inclinations lean towards the apathetic slacker asleep on their desk. Engaging with the disc in question, however, is a healthy reminder that forced comedy can only go so far before I must admit that At Once
was a bundle of fun, and its successor is even more so. True to their promise, The Most have amalgamated their individual strengths into the most expansive version of their sound thus far. Newest arrival Of What We Have
appears as a triumph of the group’s jazz-infused, free-flowing approach to songwriting.
Should any negative preconceptions of mathematics remain, The Most are able to quickly dismantle stereotypes. It’s not unfair to assume that the genre tag, often attached to releases containing innumerous passages of aimless-yet-technical noodling, describes that dreaded term of ‘wank’ that tends to be thrown about with abandon. Regardless of the validity of that vocabulary (it has none), it finds no home in the robust, albeit simultaneously unrestricted compositions abound in the LP. On paper, the weapons available in the band’s arsenal—two guitars, a bassist, percussion, two saxophones, a keyboard, and a clarinet—seem far to plentiful to cram into one space. It’s an ambitious interpretation of a style often associated with quaint, twinkling instrumentation, and it’s a methodology that the group are able to provide sufficient justification for. The booming brass section dominates the frontlines, the dual saxophone assault flourishing as the spearheading element of the album. Production value does remain level enough to allow each member’s contribution to be heard, sax favoritism aside—when it sounds so uncannily catchy, it’s hard not
to lean into the distinctive woodwind anyways. At the core of the record, however, is the percussion performance from which all other components branch off from. Various rhythms are toyed with, tempos are subject to liberal shifts, fills are consistently intriguing, and the technique employed ranges per the requirements of the individual track. This technicality, though embedded deeply into the disc courtesy of the similarly strong guitar playing, is never the focal point irrespective of its prominence, as what may be expected from an act like Invalids. Rather, The Most succeed through their admirable cooperation, allowing every number to develop a given motif and progress in an organic manner.
Such characteristics were always discoverable in the music produced by the group, but it’s clear that a different route has been taken to an extent. The saxophones reign as the chief melody creators whereas prior work concentrated moreso on the guitars, owing in part to an emphasis of jazz over math. A template set years prior by the likes of Clever Girl lingers with the intricate riffs inhabiting a relative backseat position. The result is hardly negative; emerging from the brief 33-minute duration of Of What We Have
are two incredible odysseys that particularly illustrate the brilliance of the group’s vision. The first to appear, “Mile Run,” opens with a flurry of vibrant instrumentation, uplifting tenors resonating as the melodic refrain is repeated, the groovy bass pulsing underneath. Urged forth by the drumming and sax interplay, the track marches forward, flowing seamlessly between bombastic moments and instances of restraint. The swinging brass, supported by their many associates, turn the entry into a persuasive earworm. On the opposite half of the runtime is “Woah! Hot Cinders,” which announces itself with a much more limited approach; light, playful strumming runs the show at the start. Less than a minute into the tune, proceedings quickly transition, the rhythm twisted abundantly as the guitars adopt a math-tinged quality while they swirl around the listener. In a cascade of cymbal crashes, the song gracefully enters into a period of calm. Plenty of space is opened up for the percussion kit to swell to an amazing climax before the track reconstructs itself, allowing the tempo to be recovered as the rest of the collective joins the fray. Racing to and fro between jazzy instrumentation to math rock escapades provides immense entertainment, making the evolution of the song enjoyably unpredictable and a marvel to behold. Both tunes manage to balance genres without becoming muddled in the process.
An important new trait thrown into the mix is the increased implementation of vocal accompaniments. Whereas At Once
used singing sparingly, its successor employs it very frequently, taking a formerly background variable and intensifying it. The worth of their presence is also augmented; different inflections, notes, and harmonies are active, adding substantial personality to numbers in a way that only improves their sturdy foundation. Introductory formation “First Frost” boasts an explosive saxophone performance to kick off the album, yet as the song settles down and eases into a gentle section, a vocal harmony occupies center stage, one part rugged in delivery—a slight, harsh edge is extant—and the other clean. This dynamic works wonders in punctuating exciting crescendos; in the same song, as light drumming acts as a guide, the band launches into a striking climax with vivacious brass. Over top of it all, the lyrics are belted out coarsely, albeit confidently, the endearingly rocky quality complimenting the roaring instrumentation as the math tendencies return. With three credited vocalists, each boasting infectious poise—the timidness of the debut is extinguished—there’s rarely a dull conveyance to perceive, be it for the rousing opening of “Mile Run” or the carefree verses of “Reintroduction.” Further memorable examples are found in the softer cuts abound on the record. The full force of the group is controlled in “It Starts in Your Head,” the purpose of the product to be a gradually developing construction that blossoms over its length. Using twangy thrumming and light drumming as a base, the track inserts more parts piece by piece, letting the saxophones ring out loudly alongside the guitars. What becomes the finishing touch is an addicting, eclectic singing passage, an indie-esque theme buttressed by a harmony with a bass and the rougher shouted vocals. Opting to advance on the vocal department has made the highlights of the LP elevate even higher.
What Of What We Have
amounts to is an experience that is not necessarily as raucous as its predecessor may have been. The trade-off has benefited The Most extremely well in the long run; they’ve retained their jammin’-out appeal in the various rocking incursions placed on the record, concurrently injecting a degree of restraint that ultimately reinforces their venerable songwriting capabilities. Having jazz occupy a more fundamental role in the process has also enlarged the territory covered by the Connecticut gentlemen. Trademark math rock tuning emerges a la TTNG, while laudable, commanding climaxes harken to the buildups forged by Six Gallery in their outstanding one-hit wonder. Much like the looming attendance of No Drum and Bass…
’s palpable influence, such inspirations do not define what The Most achieves on their second release. There is beauty to be found in the artful saxophone compositions imbedded in the album. Compelling arrangements are revealed in the energetic percussion demonstration and the multilayered nature of tracks, the prospering teamwork between the different members prominently displayed. As a delightful bonus, the engaging vocal work provides an extra level of appeal, painting the entries of the LP with wonderful personality. It’s evident from the contents of Of What We Have
that The Most have, well, given the most of their creative abilities to present their greatest material to date. I still fail to have much use for advanced equations or complicated calculations in a typical setting. Nevertheless, when it comes to the riveting craftsmanship of these New England math appreciators, I think I’ll be using their infectious jams routinely for the foreseeable future.