One of the most difficult tasks I’ve encountered in recent years is trying to fit Tera Melos into a genre. They’re math-rock, pop, jazz, avant-garde, experimental, progressive, hardcore, instrumental, not instrumental, loud, fast, slow, quiet, in-your-face, out-of-your-face, complex, and plain old weird. Genres are just not their thing. Their newest album, titled X’ed Out, doesn’t get us any closer to putting a label on their sound but it does expand their style in different directions. Tera Melos are as strange as they come, but their new record might just be their most accessible yet.
For starters, this record is (relatively) simple. The boys are more Marnie Stern than Zach Hill this time around. Gone are the days of eight minute-long journeys through sounds and rhythms that only barely fall into the category of songs. X’ed Out feels far more concentrated than other releases. The song structures are, well, structures. They can be laid out in terms of verses, choruses, and bridges rather than the opening, that kind of recognizable part, and the rest of the craziness. While Tera Melos’ stream of consciousness song layouts are what have helped define them, their sound has become tighter and easier to swallow with the change. This is a good thing. They nail the sound down instead of letting it run rampant and the results are songs that are catchy and interesting rather than confusing and alienating.
There still remains some strangeness to this record, however. The opening track “Weird Circles” enters with a light, toneless guitar picking before the main riff jumps in in the odd time signature of 5/4. Despite being a little off, the small repeating line is quite catchy. This “weird but cool” quality is the main tenet of the album. The songs are strange but you find yourself getting sucked into them. The closer “X’ed Out and Tired” is a simple back-and-forth of bass notes in 13/4 with Nick Reinhart’s falsetto vocals layered on top. At first glance the song is weird and a possible throwaway but on repeated listens it feels like a much more emotional, solid closing track.
Of course, not everyone will enjoy X’ed Out. Tera Melos has always been an isolated entity and though this record is more approachable it still retains many of their weird traits. Songs like “No Phase” and “Snake Lake” drift lazily without anything to really catch onto while “Bite” and “Slimed” chug along with their own off-kilter riffs. Sing-along parts are all but null. Despite the presence of lyrics in every song, most are too difficult to make out amongst the rest of the music. There is a definite beat most of the time but the wacky drumming often makes it too convoluted to be able to dance to. As well, many segments throughout the record are intricate fretboard dances that are more interesting for their technical value than anything.
But that’s just Tera Melos, it’s their style and if they got rid of it then something would be wrong. Fortunately they didn’t get rid of it – they just evolved it. The songs off of X’ed Out are shorter and more focused yet still retain the odd-ball sound that Melos made their own. The tunes are catchier than ever before and the variety within them will keep even the most dedicated listeners discovering more and more on repeat listens. Quirky and groovy, X’ed Out shows us that the two can work in harmony and craft something worth listening to.