For this week’s 3 Of The Week, I have decided to teach some of you about a little-known but exciting genre: math rock. Math rock is a complicated style of music; heavily guitar-based, it has roots in jazz, metalcore, funk and many other genres. It features a lot of complex key changes, weird rhythms, angular melodies, irregular stops and can range from very melodic and vocal to experimental. Whenever you mention math rock, most people can identify The Dillinger Escape Plan, but there is so much more to the art. Here are three math rock songs and bands, in no particular order, you should know.
1. “40 Rods To The Hog’s Head” – Tera Melos
The first one may require you to sit down, as this song blew my mind when I first heard it. In the song are at least 12 style changes, though you can tell it has a very strong punk basis. It starts with funky ambience, moves into some progressive, and then becomes hard driving and bouncy power chords before descending into ambience. It bounces from there and back until you just realize seven minutes have passed and you don’t remember where they went. This song is what makes Tera Melos one of the best in the genre.
2. “Cat Fantastic” – TTNG
TTNG, formerly known as This Town Needs Guns, has a lot stronger pop foundation than Tera Melos, and their songs are more structured. The guitar is quite “twinkly,” playing a lot more with dynamic riffs than alternating chord shapes. TTNG’s newest album, 18.104.22.168.0, is much more pop-inspired than their previous release Animals. Henry Tremain has a great tenor voice with a pretty impressive range, and his lyrics are deep yet simple. One of my favorite parts in this song is the small guitar riff that sounds exactly like the pinball bumper sound from the old Sonic the Hedgehog games. I like to imagine this is intentional.
3. “Tonto” – Battles
This song is straddling the line between math and pure experimental, but straddling is good enough. I love the great Native American-inspired call-and-response at the beginning, as well as the heavy breakdown before the almost shamisen-sounding keyboard. It then fades off with a riff that never decreases in tempo until it’s nothing but a drone. The overall bell-curve shape of the song is effective and interesting. It shows that you don’t need complicated riffs or progressions to be math, just an interesting song structure.