8th April 2016 – Superstar Destroyer Records
03. Temptation of the Idler
On first glance at Poly-Math‘s second EP Melencolia, it may be possible to feel a little short-changed: just three song titles grace the tracklisting. Thankfully, that sensation doesn’t hang around, not least because listening to those three tracks won’t give you much change from forty minutes – and, boy, do they squeeze a lot into that runtime.
Building on the distinctive, intricate sound of their 2015 debut Reptiles, the Brightonian trio have gone even deeper into their twisting, labyrinthine rabbit hole of math rock. They have returned to the surface clutching these three long, sprawling instrumental adventures, the shortest of which clocks in at just a few seconds short of the ten minute mark.
Maintaining the tight discipline of their three instruments, with minimal overdubs, Poly-Math broaden their sonic palette significantly through the extensive and imaginative use of a wide array of effects. Tim Walter’s guitar, in particular, is contorted into all manner of surprising shapes through some deft displays of pedal-pushing and knob-twiddling.
The Penrose (or ‘impossible’) triangle that graces the cover of Melencolia is every bit as appropriate as Poly-Math’s name. Genuinely progressing from an already progressive starting point, these songs are as chaotically mathy as an explosion in a calculator factory. Yet for all these precisely choreographed mathrobatics™, the vibe of Melencolia still retains the same relaxed, loose feel of a garage jam. Motifs repeat, but with wildly different interpretations as the tracks shift dynamic gears from dub-inspired spaciousness to flat-out, heads-down heavy riffing. And back again.
The music may be apologetically complex, and simply remembering the structures of their songs is a feat of Poly-Math’s collective memory in itself, but these songs are played with obvious passion and often joyous exuberance, especially by bassist Joe Branton. It is infectious, and may well prove to broaden their appeal beyond the usual strokey-beard aficionados of this type of thing.
So Melencolia does exactly what second releases should: it takes the premise laid out on Reptiles, tinkers with it enough to bring some genuine progression but retains enough of that original identity that turned heads in their direction in the first place. Even the decision to keep Melencolia limited to just three tracks seems to have been a deliberate attempt to avoid overloading the listener. Rarely has challenging, thought-provoking, complex music been presented quite so accessibly. Great fun.