This week’s band is usually described as “math rock,” a style Jake and I have bagged on in the past, partially out of sheer ignorance (back in 2010, we tagged Little Women as a math rock band…um, no), partially because, let’s face it, there are a lot of crappy math rock bands out there. Start-stop tempos and unconventional time signatures, in and of themselves, don’t make guitar-based music interesting, or even all that weird—but our inbox overflows with such dreck on an almost daily basis. So to all you struggling young math rock bands out there, we say: Study the catalog of Tera Melos, and then get back to us. If you can make music half as challenging and (here’s the important part) fucking fun as these guys, we and all the other jaded hipster music blogs might actually start paying attention to you.
Guitarist Nick Reinhart and bassist Nathan Latona started Tera Melos in Sacramento, California in 2004. Initially they were an instrumental quartet, with guitarist Jeff Worms and drummer Vince Rogers, although Worms quit pretty soon after the band started. Their debut album was an untitled collection of eight untitled songs, just labeled “Melody 1,” “Melody 2″ and so on—which was a bit ironic, given that most of the tracks were not so much melodies as kaleidoscopic explosions of processed guitar churning over insanely intricate drum patterns and basslines.
The band’s second full-length album, 2010’s Patagonian Rats, marked a major leap forward. Reinhart had occasionally contributed vocals in the past, but now he was a full-fledged lead singer, and new drummer John Clardy was every bit as technically precise as Vince Rogers but could lay down the occasional in-the-pocket groove. Now Tera Melos sounded like something new: a flashy, complex math-rock band with a fondness for melody and atmosphere, sort of halfway between two of their tourmates, Dillinger Escape Plan and Minus the Bear.
It was also around this time that Reinhart emerged as a bona fide math rock guitar god, with a unique way of using pedal boards to extract maximum sonic impact from his instrument. If you can stomach the host of this video and his relentless ass-kissing, some of the tricks Reinhart demonstrates are pretty impressive. This live in-studio performance gives an even better idea of his guitar/pedal wizardry:
But at the end of the day, it’s not Tera Melos’ math rock chops (or even their refreshing sense of humor about the genre, as seen in the banner art at the top of our site this week) that earn them Weird Band of the Week honors. What really puts them over the top are their music videos, which are nearly always amazing. Here’s “The Skin Surf” from Patagonian Rats, in which they engage in a bit of crustacean osculation while dressed up like the world’s lamest Weezer cover band:
And here’s “Weird Circles” from their latest album, last year’s X’ed Out. Who’s hungry for some Yum cereal?
But their crowning video achievement to date has to be “Bite,” also from X’ed Out, in which music and visuals merge into some kind of overlapping Battles/Primus/Kyary Pamyu Pamyu hallucination. By the way: It’s worth noting that all of these videos were directed by the same guy, a Los Angeles-based filmmaker named Behn Fannin who is clearly some kind of dark, twisted genius.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t once again thank the reader who turned us on to Tera Melos, matp662. I bet matp1 thru matp661 put together are still less cool than you, sir!
Update: Right when we make Tera Melos our Weird Band of the Week, they drop yet another crazy video! Please to enjoy their fresh-pressed latest, “Sunburn”:
I know we’re not exactly digging deep with our latest Weird of the Day, but fuck it. Sometimes, when you’re having a tough week, you just need to crank a little Soul Coughing.
For all two of you readers who aren’t already familiar: Soul Coughing was a ’90s band from New York made up of singer/songwriter/latter-day beat poet Mike Doughty, vintage-jazz-and-cartoon-obsessed sampler player Mark de Gli Antoni, and the jazz-trained, hip-hop-inspired rhythm section of Sebastian Steinberg on upright bass and Yuval Gabay on drums. They met in New York’s downtown underground jazz scene in the early ’90s and managed to put out three brilliant albums of self-described “deep slacker jazz” before their conflicting musical tastes and personalities (and addictions) drove them apart in 2000.
There aren’t many bands I say this about, but if you don’t like Soul Coughing, we probably can’t be friends. Their music just ticks all the boxes for me: It’s silly but whip-smart, geeky but undeniably funky, weird but never far from a shamelessly pop sensibility (after turning solo, Doughty would cover Mary J. Blige’s “Real Love” with absolutely zero irony), full of lyrical non sequiturs and slyly manipulated samples of familiar songs by the Andrews Sisters, Howlin’ Wolf and Carl Stalling.
“Bus to Beelzebub,” off their mind-bending 1994 debut Ruby Vroom, is too dumb (lyrically speaking) to be the band’s best song, but it’s certainly among their weirdest, what with its Raymond Scott “cartoon assembly line” sample and Doughty chanting “Quadrilateral I was, now I warp like a smile” and “Yellow No. 5″ over de Gli Antoni’s razor-blade organ samples and Steinberg’s relentlessly marching bass. It’s really too bad these guys all hate each other now, because in their heyday, they were a force.
Well, what have we here? Looks like Australia’s differently abled power-popsters Rudely Interrupted have slimmed down to a quartet in preparation for the release of their latest EP, I Am Alive. It’s out Sept. 19th, but available for pre-order now via iTunes. And it features a song called “Ran Over a Lizard,” so you know it’s gonna rule.
Rudely Interrupted have been racking up the frequent flyer miles of late, playing a “carnival of the mind” called Twenty Wonder here in Los Angeles (sorry we missed you, guys) and performing with an orchestra in Italy. They don’t have any other shows booked at the moment but you can bet that Sam Beke’s sparkly cape will be gracing some stages Down Under again soon enough.
Now here’s a sneak peak at their latest animated music video, for I Am Alive‘s title track. If you pre-order the album via iTunes, you’ll get the full video included with the EP.
A gentleman by the name of John Wedge dropped a band from Liverpool called ZX Electric into our inbox over the weekend, and we’re definitely intrigued by their lo-fi, retro sound and especially the strangled, haunted voice of their lead singer, Ben Mawdsley. They have two albums up on Bandcamp called Obsolete (posted May 2013) and Fixed Unknown (posted January 2014). At first, because of the music’s sparse, no wave vibe and squiggly, analog synths, we thought they might be reissues—especially when we found one of the band’s YouTube videos and it was tagged “rare post punk obscure 1981.” But we’re pretty sure they’re contemporary.
Here’s a track from Fixed Unknown, “Altered States.” To quote Julian Cope, who’s a fan: “Kiddies, this artist deploys enormous emptiness as part of his major musical arsenal, occasionally tearing at the heartstrings with hoary chord sequences and anguished vocals so appallingly pained that, veritably, it maketh me want to rend my own garments.” What he said!
You can hear more of ZX Electric’s desolate ditties on Bandcamp.
It’s Labor Day here in America, so to celebrate, we thought we’d play you all something that has the power to actually induce labor. Here’s “Insomnia,” nine minutes of crazy from the Norwegian experimental singer Maja Ratkje. Our thanks to our old pal Miss Hawkline for this one. Miss M, when you post stuff like in the comments section, that’s how we know you really love us.
To hear more of Maja’s unearthly shrieks and sighs, check out her website.
MC Frontalot‘s new album Question Bedtime arrived this week, with its twisted folk tales and hilarious sketches in which Front babysits unruly comedians. (“I’ll go to bed on one condition: Make me a Baked Alaska,” Paul F. Tompkins pleads.) It’s good stuff, but also a major departure for the nerdcore rapper, whose usual subject matter consists of videogames, sci-fi and the occasional stoop sale. We wanted to find out more about why he chose make what is, in essence, a children’s album.
While we sometimes do interviews on this blog, it’s more lucrative if we can convince some other website to pay us to do it. In this case, that website was The Daily Dot, a tech and pop culture site heavy on geek-friendly content. Front’s right in their wheelhouse, so they agreed, perhaps not knowing that we’d spend most of our interview talking about Idries Shah’s World Tales: The Extraordinary Coincidence of Stories Told in All Times, in All Places.
Hey, so here’s another L.A. band we’ve been meaning to write about for awhile. Tartar Control claim to be God-fearing Mormons from Salt Lake City who try to spread religion through the power of snotty punk rock, but I’m not so sure. I think they might be actual snotty L.A. punk rockers who are just ripping off these guys. Oh, wait, their drummer is a robot? I take it all back then. They must be actual Mormons and their act is totally original! (Mormons love robots. It’s why their Chosen One is Mitt Romney.)
Anyway, Sean, Robert and Robot have a new album coming out in October called We Forgive You. You do? Thanks, Tartar Control! Glad that dead hooker is finally off our conscience.
While we wait for forgiveness, here’s a video for “Smoking Crack” off their first album, Holy Crap! Tartar Control forgives us, but who forgives Tartar Control?
For more Tartar Control, floss regularly and visit the band’s website.