It is no secret that I love Intronaut. My first time through their latest album was not a pleasant experience. I had my suspicions that this was something I would end up liking. They shifted their sound away from interesting jazz progressions to something more like djenty nu metal. Had they abandoned everything that made them great to cash in on the latest (dying) trend?
Already on the second time through, I started to notice the old Intronaut peek through this more intense and aggressive sound. The first track alone had a huge extended jazzy vamp building up to the climactic ending. The vocals layered in extended chords over the guitar riffs. I had somehow zoned out during all of this in my horror the first time.
The next track brings back their cleverness in playing with time. It is easy to write off the repetitiveness of the pattern as excessive, but it constantly turns around. First, it is a hemiola (the pattern itself has a length that doesn’t sit perfectly in the time signature). Then the time signature itself seems to keep changing if the drums are to be trusted. It is quite the achievement, and I found myself enjoying listening to how the pieces fit together once I realized it wasn’t as simple as mere repetition.
The album as a whole did come off as a bit formulaic. Start with some heavy djent inspired stuff. Transition to a long jazzy or proggy section. Then build up to a climactic ending that returns to the opening idea with some of the middle ideas layered in. I have no problem with this, because it is quite an effective formula. It lets you experience the pieces separately which makes it easier to appreciate them when played together. They deviated from this on “The Pleasant Surprise,” but I actually felt a little cheated that it stayed fast and hard the whole way through.
One of my favorite tracks will probably be most people’s least favorite: “The Unlikely Event of a Water Landing.” It starts very different with some creepy sampled spoken word stuff under weird synthesized sounds. The song stays pretty down tempo the whole time and vamps on a pretty simple idea for a long, long time. This also does some weird time stuff.
I didn’t take the time to figure it out, but I think it is a combo of 3/4 and 4/4 measures and the band isn’t playing them at the same time creating a 3 against 4 effect. The long, mesmerizing effect can pull you into a nice meditative state if you let it do its job. That guitar solo is really good, too. I thought it was cheesy the first time, but I’ve come around to it.
Overall, this is a great effort from Intronaut. I still have my suspicions on the direction their sound has headed, but that well-composed songwriting is still there. I give this an 8.5/10.
Here’s a sample: