(Red Panda, 2013)
It’s almost impossible to figure out how to pronounce that name above, but once I realized it was “meant to be,” I almost gave up then and there. Sorry guys, ain’t buying that one. It doesn’t matter how inscrutably you spell that, it’s still “meant to be,” and it’s still ill-fitting for the sound. But what am I, some kind of expert? No. I’m just a dude with a keyboard who likes music, and it’s because of this that I was like, “Fine, I’ll hit play for a second, see what’s up. Band’s from Melbourne after all. Aussies might have something here.”
And that’s the story of how I downloaded all three of the band’s EPs. Er, well, it’s coming anyway.
I’m going to focus on mainsHum, because that’s the one that just came out this month, but I want to give a special nod to Rocky 4, 2 and 3, an, yes, actual awesome name for an EP, and a song that includes lyrics boasting that main mnttaB-er Dik is “bigger than Elvis, Arnie, Dolph Lundgren, Steve Seagall – believe me I’m Rocky 4, 2 and 3.” This is shouted through distortion while synth fuzz and fake clanging drums make an unholy Atari Teenage Riot–inspired racket. I’m pretty sure mnttaB isn’t quite so political as Alec Empire’s crew, but the pieces fit, and I’m OK with that.
Still on that “death disko” (their term) electro madness though here on mainsHum, and it seems like an absolutely appropriate step for the band. I haven’t found a synth punk sound quite this exciting in a while, and while it might be that I’m not looking hard enough, I’m pretty sure it’s not the super easiest thing in the world to get all worked up over synthesizers as the main instrument. In fact, the closest stylistic similarity I can think of really is chiptune, and while this isn’t that, mnttaB wouldn’t stand out on a bill with IAYD or minusbaby. But then there’s Dik, who bellows like an Australian Johnny Rotten, and you’re out of the synthesized reality and back in a grimy basement club. He’s really showcased on “drained,” wherein the instruments are a bit more restrained, and Dik’s able to make himself heard a little better over the breakbeat. It’s hard to know what he’s saying – the vocals are still coated in grime – but you can tell he’s pretty pissed about something.
He’s pissed about something on pretty much everything, even “Moons and Stars and Things…” where post punk and hardcore punk collide from one bar to the next, showcasing a dizzying yet satisfying array of dynamic chops. “We touch” is essentially the antithesis of intimate, but the chiptune melody is a nice addition to keep the listener somewhat close to what’s going on. On the title track, Dik shouts “Control!” into the musicless void before he’s joined by breakneck rhythm and synthesizers.
What makes mnttaB so much fun is the sum of its parts. Everything sounds somewhat chintzy, but it’s played fast, sloppy, sweaty, and angry, and it comes off as eminently listenable. The EP isn’t long, around twelve minutes, but there are three of them on the band’s bandcamp page, so there’s a lot of mnttaB to go around. (Dik even asks the following rhetorical questions on mainsHum’s bandcamp page: “How can tunes assembled on a sequencer be so out of time? How can digitally recorded vocals sound so scratchy and distorted? Why does such an expensive synthesizer sound so cheap?” The answer to these questions, obviously, is, “Does it matter?”) I don’t care what the band’s name is – the output speaks for itself. So does the ridiculously Residents-esque cover art, but I’ll leave that for you to parse. Although I gotta say, the Rocky 4, 2 and 3 EP’s art is pretty badass.
As an aside, Dik referred to us in an email as “critMass” – I like it. Sticks with the theme.
RIYL: Atari Teenage Riot, Chromelodeon, Captain Ahab, Yakuza Heart Attack