Guitar, bass and drums - a classic lineup of instruments that can feel stale at times. In the right hands the structure can still be unique and refreshing. Don’t believe me just take a listen to the new self-titled album Black Squares / White Islands by Black Squares / White Islands. The band doesn’t even use vocals but the songs are often captivating and brimming with originality.
Black Squares / White Islands is made up of Jordan McFadden (guitar), Sean Hall (bass) and Mikey Munda (drums) and is an experimental/instrumental math rock group from Greensboro, NC, that have been playing music together for about two years. What I really enjoyed besides the originality of the music is that no single instrument is a focal point of the music. Sure there are moments where certain instrumental parts jump out at me but for the most part the bass, drums or guitar sound like a singular ever-changing sound that would fall apart without the other components.
The band is technically talented and it’s enjoyable listening to these three because of that but the reason it works is that the music is aesthetically creatively. Some of the best moments are quite simplistic but make a huge impact.
The album opens with “Yes Automatic,” which starts off with distorted bass, a barrage of toms and a sideways-sounding guitar. It trudges forward and I enjoyed the unique celebration of notes McFadden was hitting with his guitars. In some ways the music reminded me of Liars’ “They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top.” As the song progressed it became more intense and more inventive.
“I Have No Memories Of Japan” is a dance worthy tune that can bear comparisons to a group like Out Hud while “Castilian Lisp” has some of the most expressive, innovative drumming on the album. Tradewind” creates waves of white noise through distorted guitars and crash cymbals. It sounded sloppy but perfectly in time. Great stuff. “Tylex and Sandpaper Carpets” closes the album in a chaotic, frenzied way to close things up.
This is a great release. My only slight complaint is that I wish the production was about 10% more polished at times. That being said I can't recommend this record enough.
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