The daily rat race of life can be a real drag sometimes. Many of us get into a daily routine which can go on for what seems like years, grinding it out one day at a time; wash, rinse and repeat. Music can be an escape for many, a safe place to go recover from the daily tribulations of life, an oasis to find rest and rejuvenation, even if only for the length of an album running-time. When I listened to Refractions by Meniscus for the first time, I smiled to myself. This was an album that was full of happiness and joy, an oasis I could return to again and again, whether it was during peak-hour traffic on my way home from work, or alone in my bedroom late in the evening contemplating on the day’s events. Meniscus, hailing from Australia, bring together a mix of instrumental rock, psychedelic and electronic soundscapes, with some excellent harder-rock elements thrown in for good measure. They are Daniel Oreskovic on guitar, Alison Kerjean on bass duties, Alex O’Toole on drums and Martin Wong on visuals for live shows.
RELEASE DATE: 21 October 2016 LABEL: Bird’s Robe Records
Meniscus have been in the game for over ten years now, starting up back in 2005, and it shows in the execution of the music on Refractions. The band manages to build an engrossing story with each track, building layer on top of glorious, atmospheric-infused layer with the deftest of touches that only years of experience could imbue. Take a track like “Simulation”, arguably the finest track on Refractions. Delay-infused guitars play along to a wonderful drum passage which builds and builds to one of the best guitar lines you will hear from any instrumental rock album this year. That guitar line, simple as it is, pulls at the heartstrings and coupled with the fantastic bass and drumming, hits right in the gut with pure emotion.
“Overhang” further highlights the band’s skill at crafting layers of sound that tell a complete and touching narrative. A single guitar line repeats throughout the entirety of the song, allowing the additional guitars, bass, and drums to play off it. There is nothing flashy about it, it’s just damn good song writing. “Headrush” is another standout track of the album, whilst also being the longest of Refractions. With its ten-minute running time Meniscus get to experiment with different sounds and textures, creating what will no doubt be a fan-favourite at all their shows with its larger than life feel, a song deserving of massive arenas and amphitheatres. Refractions ends off with two gargantuan jams, “Hamster” and “Flux” which showcases the very best Meniscus has to offer. Dreamy passages, ferocious riffs and experimental elements pepper these two tracks throughout.
I must commend Meniscus on their song arrangement, Refractions flows wonderfully from start to finish with a great balance between beginning, middle and end, with the latter half of the album being just as strong as the beginning. There is no front loading of songs going on here. Refractions clocks in at a hefty one hour running time and this may seem daunting, but I can’t say I felt it once I got stuck into the record. It is an album you can get completely lost in, and I wouldn’t say it’s something you need to fully listen to in one sitting either with each song being strong enough to stand on its own.
A quick word on production and mixing, it’s fantastic. The soundstage is wide with every instrument clear and separated. The clean guitar passages are lush and shimmering, whilst the distorted guitar parts are crispy, and the bass deep and rumbly. The drumming on Refractions is phenomenal with every thud and splash a joy to listen to.
What exactly are they putting in the water down in Australia because the music that has been coming out of the country in the last few years is nothing short of astonishing, whether its mind perplexing prog metal or dream-inducing instrumental rock. The wait for Refractions was long, with five years having passed since Meniscus’ last full-length, but the wait sure was worth it. Meniscus must surely take their place now next to the big boys of the Australian rock scene. They have crafted a true gem of a record, an oasis from the daily tribulations of life, and I can’t wait to return to it again and again.