There’s a term in horticulture which has a very positive, albeit somewhat menacing vibe to it – “hybrid vigor”. It’s when a scion of two different species of fruit tree gains all the specific advantages against disease or parasites from both of its parent plants, while maintaining all of the desired characteristics of the fruit. New York one-man act Codas makes me feel like this term should be embraced outside of the gardening world, because the combination of electronica and metal unleashed on the debut EP “Currents” reaches such a state of eloquence, such a fever pitch that it can only be classified as hybrid vigor.
RELEASE DATE: 02 June 2015 LABEL: Crowquill Records
Mario Quintero is the mind behind Codas, and his extensive experience both in front and behind the mixing desk is plain to see. He has been a part of San Diego post-rock band Sleep Lady, and half of the NY duo Spotlights, and all of these projects are thoroughly interesting musical endeavors in their own right. Codas is merely the latest challenge he has set out to complete – a one-man onslaught of layers and sounds which wouldn’t have fit anywhere near his previous creative outlets. The sheer density and ferocity of this music, the fiercely experimental, no-quarter clash between seemingly extreme genres can easily prove overwhelming on this EP – there would’ve been no way to gracefully integrate these ideas in a more musically complex landscape, such as those offered by Sleep Lady or Spotlights.
So what exactly is happening with this project which makes it feel so novel? The only reference point I can feel safe mentioning is Nine Inch Nails’ experimental instrumental album “Ghosts”, from back in 2008. At first glance, the melding between electronic atmosphere and metal visceral fire seems to lead to the “industrial metal” label, but this definitely doesn’t apply to Codas, at least not in the NIN variant we know. The connection to “Ghosts” only comes to mind due to Adrian Belew’s distinctive and merciless guitar work on that album, superimposed on Reznor’s syncopated, huge and mesmerizing rhythm tracks. Mario Quintero’s guitar work on “Currents” is in the same league, which is quite a feat. How Quintero manages to sound so gargantuan all on his own, how his riffing swells manage to burst forth from the speakers with such volcanic intensity is truly a feat of sorcery to be reckoned with, apt to leave one breathless and dizzied, much like the title of the EP seems to suggest.
“Currents” is overclocked and overloaded, a phenomenon of acceleration and intensity, shocking and fearless, a monster with white, bare knuckles and grinning teeth. Electronic noises and beats come from a Macintosh laptop, and the rest is guitars… formidable, breathtaking, lumbering guitars. That’s all the album needs to sound completely staggering, like a tornado going through a bin of genre labels, slashing everything apart and putting it back together. You’ve got math-rock, drone, prog-metal, post-metal, electronica, shoegaze, post-rock, even aspects of black metal here and there, all conveyed through stellar guitar work, all of them crystal clear, even as they seem to be drowning each-other out in the insane maelstrom ripping through the middle tracks of this four track EP. All of this is achieved through patient and intelligent layering, easily one of the most common one-man-project techniques, made fresh by Codas through sheer volume, detail and patience. And as it took Mario Quintero quite a bit of effort and patience to assemble this brutal symphony, so will it take the listener sustained effort and patience to experience it; patience, effort and a good pair of headphones, or a clear and loud pair of speakers.
The production quality on this EP is very good indeed, which is no surprise from an artist with over fifteen years of experience behind the studio mixing consoles. However, the jagged, unhinged urgency of the instrumentation and the meticulous layering lead to what feels like a very compressed signal, an unstoppable deluge of sound which will not come across very well on equipment unable to cope with such force. Basically, what I’m saying is that the EP is mixed to be played loudly and far away from your average tinny laptop speakers. “Currents” needs room to breathe and decibels to shine, and even then it might pose a challenge, due to the cognitive dissonance between the organic guitar work and the clearly artificial, relentless drum programming on some of the tracks (namely “Follow the Blind” and “White Black”). The better one can hear it, the more jarring it seems to become. It’s difficult to say on a record such as this whether it is an intentional effect or a result of equipment or tech limitations, but as “Currents” lives in a musical twilight zone anyway, I take this ambiguity as something that adds to the overall impression and atmosphere.
LISTEN: INTERVIEW WITH MARIO QUINTERO (SLEEP LADY, SPOTLIGHTS, CODAS)
I have it on good authority that Mario Quintero is already working on a follow-up for “Currents”, which makes me very happy. If something so experimental and unrepentant can gain enough traction and positive feedback to warrant further exploration, then all is well and there is hope. “Currents” left me wide-eyed, discombobulated and exhausted, and I want more. Hopefully, you’ll feel the same way. Enjoy!