Tera Melos

Tera Melos

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”:

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Weird of the Day: Tera Melos, “Bite”

Tera Melos

We don’t post much math rock on this blog, for the very simple reason that most of it isn’t actually that weird. Technically impressive, sure, but weird? Not so much. Go to any large band practice space in any big college town and you will hear the cacophony of a dozen math rock bands all trying to shred around a diminished seventh chord in alternating 3/2 and 7/8 tempos and I actually nodded off three times while trying to finish this sentence. The sound of music geeks geeking out can go to some pretty weird places—but as with most genres of music, the vast majority of it is pretty by-the-book.

This is why I find Tera Melos so refreshing. Yes, they’re clearly big-time music geeks, but they a.) don’t take themselves too seriously and b.) make songs that, while still full jerky start-stop rhythms and odd, slightly dissonant chord progressions, also have melody and—dare I say it?—a sense of groove. They remind me a lot of Pinback and Minus the Bear, two bands I really like that sometimes get labeled as math rock even though I’m sure the hardcore math rockers think their time signatures are too basic.

But what really puts them over the top into weirdo territory are their music videos, which are nearly always amazing. Here’s a recent one for the track “Bite” that is pretty much exactly how I always imagined it would look if Primus made a J-pop video. And yes, I imagine that sort of thing a lot.

“Bite” is from Tera Melos’ latest album, X’ed Out, which you can buy from Amazon.com or their label, Sargent House.

P.S. Thanks to reader matp662 for submitting Tera Melos. Matp662 suggested another video, “The Skin Surf,” and that one’s pretty weird, too.

Weird of the Day: Le Singe Blanc, “Gru”

Le Singe Blanc

How many weird bands are there in France, anyway? It’s like half the population over there traded in their Serge Gainsbourg records for some Captain Beefheart and Mr. Bungle. Yesterday a French reader named Laurent sent us yet another list of weird French bands, and yet again, we’d never heard of half of them. If you guys keep this up, we may need to open up a satellite office in Paris. You know, with our millions of blog dollars.

Anyway, among the many excellent bands Laurent suggested we check out is an experimental rock trio from Metz called Le Singe Blanc, which is apparently French for “The White Monkey.” They kind of sound like what might happen if a post-punk/math-rock band was started by a bunch of Muppets. Here’s the video for their song “Gru,” which you should really not watch if you love birds.

You can hear more of Le Singe Blanc on Bandcamp and Amazon.

Weird of the Day: ZU, “Carbon”

ZU

ZU is an Italian jazz/metal band on Mike Patton’s Ipecac label who make music that sounds like a cross between Morphine, Naked City and one of those extreme metal bands that uses crazy time signatures like Meshuggah. Using only sax, bass, drums and electronics, their sound is so heavy they can probably wipe the stage with most guitar-based heavy bands.

The video below was passed along to us by reader DFox; it’s a track from their most recent album, Carboniferous. Mike Patton appears in the video, which is from a live performance in Chile, but I’m not sure if he’s actually anywhere on the track, which seems to be the studio version. (To definitely hear Patton with ZU, check out “Soulympics.”) But with Patton or without, “Carbon” is a pretty gobsmacking track.

To hear more or pick up a copy of Carboniferous, go to Amazon.com.

Godswounds

Godswounds

Say hello to our latest Weird Band Poll winners: Godswounds. They’re a bunch of hairy dudes from Australia who play a sort of math-rock/metal/dub/videogame-soundtrack combo featuring double drums, lots of choppy guitar, some trumpet and an instrument that sounds like a Theremin but I think is just some kind of vintage synth. They’re fun. They also have an excellent weird band pedigree: That’s Mr. Bungle‘s Danny Heifetz on one of the two drum kits and their latest album, Death to the Babyboomers, features members of The Melvins, Oxbow, Red Sparrowes and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. Remember, kids: You’re never too weird to network.

You can stream all of Death to the Babyboomers on Bandcamp and even buy the whole thing for US $7 if you’re living large. Meantime, here’s an example of their live show, which takes awhile to get to Crazytown but makes up for lost time when it gets there. What’s Australian for “melt your fucking face off”? Sound is a little low, so crank it.

So congrats on winning the poll, Godswounds! And for the rest of y’all: Keep an eye out for our next poll in a couple weeks. It’s gonna be the most bonkers one yet, and I’m not just saying that because Andy beats me if we don’t get enough people voting.

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The Locust

It being Halloween and whatnot, I thought it would be a good time to give a shout out to another costume band. But not just any costume band, because let’s face it, all the rubber monster masks in the world can’t make up for boring music. Yeah, I’m looking at you, Slipknot.

But these guys out of San Diego called The Locust are pretty badass. They play a style of punk/thrash/noise that I guess some folks call “powerviolence“…yes, there’s a genre name for everything these days. There songs are super short, sometimes less than a minute, and tend to have titles like “Recyclable Body Fluids in Human Form” and “Full Frontal Obscurity.” And the kicker is that, unlike your average punk band (or powerviolence band, as far as we know), they dress up in these matching uniforms that make them look kind of like a cross between DEVO and a chemical weapons disposel team.

So here’s a little clip of The Locust doing their costumed powerviolence thing, with a precision and ferocity that puts the latest Saw move to shame. Incidently, their drummer is a guy named Gabe Serbian who used to be in another band we’ve blogged about, veggie goregrinders Cattle Decapitation. Bet the Cattle guys miss him. Dude’s an absolute beast.

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Little Women

(photo credit: Alexander Perrelli)

For some bands, being weird has nothing to do with high-concept gimmicks or wacky outfits. They just show up, plug in their instruments, and the weirdness smacks you in the face with the force of a two-by-four. Such a band is Brooklyn’s Little Women.

According to Little Women’s press release, this quartet “creates music whose aim is transcendence via brutally precise sonic assault and ascendant melodies.” For those of you who don’t speak Music Press Release, that translates to four guys with two saxophones, a guitar and a drum kit wailing away to create a wall of revved-up noise so hard to listen to, you’d be forgiven for assuming they must all be schizophrenic.

To be clear, it’s not that Little Women is the only band in history to make a living by pummeling their audiences with atonal, free-jazz skronk played with the savagery of speed metal and the whiplash tempos of math rock. Ever since Ornette Coleman decided that the best way to play a saxophone was to pretend you were strangling it, plenty of artists have been testing the outer reaches of music with stuff that most people would dismiss as noise. But there’s something about the way Little Women do it that is, in the words of one critic, “terrifying.” This would be very, very bad music to listen to while under the influence of psychedelic substances…especially this part:

(Bonus fun fact: New York is also home to an all-female pop/alt-country quartet called The Little Women Band. Wonder how many of their fans have clicked on the wrong MySpace page and been totally traumatized.)

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