As far as experimental, unconventional rock music goes, math rock remains an easy to love style of music that's just as easy to misunderstand as well. Many math rock bands are fond of head-spinning odd time signatures, quirky melodies and primarily straying away from having vocals to lead their songs.
It's a winning combination for some, an aural nightmare for others. One man's trash is anoth—nah, we're not doing that. We're going to make the case with five terrific math rock bands, with enough melodic muscle to make things easier for unbelievers to get into. The best part? They're all our neighbours, as far as Japan. A hell of a lot closer than, say, TTNG in the UK or Battles in the US. Give us a chance and we'll show you the crazier side of modern rock. It's pretty fun.
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Don’t let their cheery and lighthearted (*ahem* lite-hearted?) sound fool you. Hailing from the land of the rising sun, LITE’s compositions pack in many subtle layers of amazing technicality — deft guitar melodies interweave intricately with each other, above equally complex and crisp rhythms. Even before you marvel how they can play what they play, you start marvelling at how they came up with it in the first place. The creative genius of the band is impressively displayed in their unpredictable sequences, time signatures and song structures, all coming together in their tracks to make things musically and intellectually exciting.
This Malaysian quartet’s eccentric and unpredictable sequences keep you on your musical toes, even after you’ve played them on loop enough to memorise every beat. You find yourself gawping at their brilliance while you’re helplessly grooving along (all from personal experiences). These guys have a whole lotta attitude, but not without sheer intellect. Dirgahayu's music can’t keep still, and you can’t keep still listening to it. Those who caught them at Lithe Paralogue Studio thanks to DUNCE would also have etched in their memories that Dirgahayu is truly a massive beast live.
A defining characteristic of Taiwan's Elephant Gym is their ever-interesting and unique basslines, whether entwining itself with an equally dynamic guitar layer or taking its own stage amidst more emotive supporting riffs. They're also pretty good with stage banter. It’s hard to believe with their sound, but the band only comprises three (very talented) members. Check out this song, where the trio incorporate some jazzy keys into the mix, along with some fancy dancing.
The mesh of soothing, yet subtly complex guitar lines are a distinctive sound of this quartet, exuding an optimistic and uplifting energy. The music of Two Million Thanks manages to be relaxing while still retaining the intellectual stimulation of math rock, as the lilting and bright vocal harmonies complement the rapid technical intensity of the Thai band's instrumentals. Amazingly, their playing remains equally quick and precise in their live performances, something we got to witness at last year's Baybeats. We’re just not sure how many fingers they all have.
Another “I’ve no idea how that’s three people” type band, their swift erratic riffs and beats will impress you even with the slight air of jumpy cuteness. The high, sweet lead vocals definitely add to this, also parallelling the instrumentals in their pure and clear quality. Uchu Conbini’s musical prowess and lead vocalist Emi's voice shine in all their tracks, and even in their slower and more emotive numbers, the trio still boast a special inventiveness in melodies and structure.
Written by Chew Wei Li & Daniel Peters