If there’s one thing that is tough for a band to do a decade-plus into their career, it’s change.
In most cases, the band has carved out a fairly defined sound by that point, so incurring change means navigating a very narrow course. Do it correctly, taking logical steps to progress, and you’ll inject new life and a new artistic tinge to the band. Do it wrong, with seemingly disingenuous out-of-left-field tactics, and you’ll have a legion of longtime fans at your throat.
With 12 years in the rearview since their debut EP, MuteMath seems to be at that crossroads.
For their first single since 2015’s Vitals, the band ventures out with the aptly titled “Changes”. While electronics have always been an extremely integral of MuteMath’s sound, they take center stage on the new track. In fact, they completely run the show, as the band eschews guitars and live drums for an intricate weaving of synth, piano, and bass. But where this departure could seem out of place in the hands of lesser musicians, MuteMath effortlessly pivots their sound by rounding up tiny aspects of their career-spanning influences and combining them.
The psychedelic swirl that framed Vitals comes up early in “Changes”, introducing the track before a delicate piano line takes over to drive the melody. The track ebbs and flows, pulsating back and forth as it chugs along, while quick flourishes like blaring horns immediately before the chorus and wavy synth wobbles after give the song a jolt of electricity throughout.
Perhaps most noticeably absent is the spastically eccentric drumming that has graced MuteMath’s discography for the last decade. Instead, the band employs a subtle blend of snaps, hi-hat clicks, and a beating bass drum. While MuteMath’s rhythm section has long been their bread and butter, the shift into a more low-key approach is a brilliant one, letting the song lead the listener along.
The one steadfast staple of MuteMath’s sound has always been the vocals of frontman Paul Meany, and “Changes” is no different in that regard. Meany’s voice takes on the elasticity of his surroundings, never overshadowing the pulsing wall of sound behind him but always remaining a commanding presence while delivering poignant lines like the chorus of “I’m just suffering from changes / Locked outside for good / Paper cut by turning pages / Sitting under dust cause / I’m not understood.”
MuteMath has made a career of delivering beautiful pop soundscapes over the last decade, and while “Changes” doesn’t necessarily fit the mold of any of their previous efforts, it showcases a positive branching out in a moody, understated fashion.