A Minor Forest’s ‘Inindependence’ Is a Goddamn Math Rock Classic
The word "classic" gets thrown around so much lately. In the world of music, it's used in hushed tones and reserved for records like Pet Sounds, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath or Forever Changes. We say that is bullshit. While there should be a reverence for those albums, it’s equally as important to recognize the greatness that happens around us every single day. That’s why we're proposing the canonization of new records with our new series Goddamn Classic, which goes out and nominates records that may be off the beaten path, but deserve another look from the world. We've asked writers, artists and other notables to stand up and be counted, to defend the records that they feel haven't gotten their due.
Much like the Its-it ice cream bar, A Minor Forest have remained an insider San Francisco classic since their inception. The band released only two records, 1996's Flemish Altruism and 1998's Inindependence, both on Thrill Jockey. With the latter, they managed to warp all sorts of different genres and sounds into one concentrated medley of rock music. You can see glimmers of '90s hardcore and experimental music at play, as the band truly combined their technical ability and vulnerability to create a math rock masterpiece that stands the test of time.
The album's true strength lies in its ability to surprise. Opener "The Dutch Fist" provides immediate, moody melodies, but with a strange, almost sinister kind of tilt. The band traffics in minimal instrumentation until they throw an extremely abrupt, sludgy wrench into things, which lasts for just a moment before they push back into the rhythm. Credit is due to drummer Andee Connors, who provides the band with visceral turning points and just enough percussion to set the mood right.
These huge shifts in mood set the band apart. The seemingly placid resolution in "Erik's Budding Romance" is totally destroyed upon the introduction of noisy guitar. "Look at That Car, It's Full of Balloons" conjures the feeling of an actual crisis, parts starting and stopping, each new beginning providing a unique twist. A small melodic break arrives at the midpoint, offering a brief respite from the chaos, reminding you how easily the band could make a completely beautiful record if they really wanted. Things melt further from there, lurching string sections allowing the song to end on an eerie tone.
The record climaxes with "The Smell of Hot," the band progressing through relaxing math rock tones before deciding to just throw you into a sea of distortion and violence; it's a heavy end cap on an 18-minute trip. The descent continues on "Michael Anthony" before buoying up to melancholic beauty on "Discoier." It's a hard record to pin down, with different emotions around every new guitar hook or gentle strum. Unlike other lauded genre bands, A Minor Forest took a distinctly concrete approach to the emotions they expressed, letting subtlety fall by the wayside and allowing themselves the freedom to go all the way.
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