OK so here’s a new album from Riot Season records, so be prepared to be sonically blasted sphincter first into the next universe. Right? Well actually, wrong because this is a Riot Season release like none other that I can remember. Instead of the usual rush of blood to the fret there’s an easy avant garde jazz-like beginning that opens up into the subtle middle eastern rhythms of ‘In This Unforgiving Heart’. As the track, and album, progresses I also begin to realise that it is like none other that I have heard…full stop.
To explain where Menimals are coming from on this release would take me a huge number of words to explain, so I’m taking the unusual step of extensively quoting the press release:
“The four musicians are the sonic representation of the cosmic beauty and symmetry embodied in the Platonic solids,
the classical elements of alchemy, and the symbolic animal spirits whose masks they wear:
The Rat – Drums
Hexahedron – Earth – The most stable element, the layer on which the other instruments stand.
The Chimera – Bass/Additional Guitar
Icosahedron – Water – Is complementary to earth and is the most mobile element.
The Gryphon – Guitar/Production
Octahedron – Air – The water lies on the earth, the air lies in the surface of the water.
Constantly flies between melody and noise.
Doctor Forge – Voice
Tetrahedron – Man – Fire – The most mutable and unpredictable element. It can be a spark or a blaze.
It carries the light. It’s the lantern in the dark that shows the passageway.
The four Elements together create the Dodecahedron – Aether, void, or quintessence, the most subtle and incorruptible element.
The medium of sound, it is inaccessible to all other senses.”
At this point I have to admit that I’m usually quite wary of such descriptions, however when the results are as sublime, disruptive, challenging and beautiful as this album I am prepared to make an exception because the four elements of Menimals clearly have a deep understanding of each other which comes together to produce something that is deeply atmospheric and other-worldly. When you listen to this album you get it, you see that the press release isn’t just the usual bullshit.
Returning to ‘In This Unforgiving Heart’ as a case in point, the music flows into you like soothing medication or a calming balm, yet when the vocals kick in well into the track they add luminosity while at the same time disrupt smooth rhythms in an unusual and beguiling manner. This continues with ‘Dodecahedron; The Window Sphere’, which opens with a vocal which is at the same time unsettling and mesmeric, taking centre stage and drawing you into the music. This is not an easy listen, but it is rewarding as the vocal continues to ensnare you as the track gradually builds around a central bass riff whirling like a dervish into an ever frenetic speed before slowing and disintegrating into a single chord and that voice again…hypnotic.
‘Tetrahedron’ begins almost imperceptibly with a low hum, simple riff and child-like voice, and then begins to grow as each of the the musicians begin to add their layer of meaning, and the vocal slowly matures. At around three minutes it breaks out into the open and mutates into something resembling a recognisable song structure, or at least as close as this album gets as each element of the band builds in what feels like an improvised and organic manner…yet combining in a strange coherence.
After this almost conventional interlude, ‘Transition From A Cube To An Octahedron’ sees a return to a more abstract approach with mythopoeic vocals that sound like they are channeling the dawn of creation itself over a relatively simple yet etherial backing track. As the track progresses it becomes even more stripped back as the words become spoken rather than sung, and the music too becomes more stilted and abstract; it feels like creation turns to destruction in a chilling and disturbing manner.
After this the sultry beginnings of ‘Bird On A Wing As A Hinge’ provide a false dawn with the track’s vocals once again providing the focus for the track as they seek to warp and cleave the music from the listener. If, as the press release suggests the vocals “…carries the light. It’s the lantern in the dark that shows the passageway” there is also a sense on this track that that light is being shone in our faces providing some sort of immutable barrier between listener and musicians, something that is only slowly resolved as they dissolve into the mix and we are permitted once again to hear the sheer beauty of the music. In a sense this is frustrating, yet through this comes challenge and, ultimately, an intrinsic appreciation of the art of this singular collective, and the aurally confrontationist nature of this album.
The last words on this album are “the experiment is over…it’s over…it’s over” as ‘Bird On A Wing As A Hinge’ dissipates into what seems to be a unusually empty silence. Through Menimals we have witnessed a moment in time, an experiment which somehow seems to change with every listen of this quite unique album, an album that demands to be listened to in a state of studied contemplation. This is an album to escape into and live through…it is an album that grows.
Menimals is released in April as a very limited lp on black vinyl from Riot Season and is available for pre-order here now.