If you’re already familiar with Mutiny on the Bounty’s work, whether it’s the math-punk sound of Danger Mouth or the more post-hardcore heaviness of Trials, you might be challenged a little by the musical approach of their third release, Digital Tropics. Indeed, the four guys from Luxembourg have established themselves as a ranting math-rock/post-hardcore act with an aggressive but balanced vibe that previously flirted with the sounds of The Fall of Troy or Damiera, but they haven’t just done another MOTB record without vocals here. Rather, they’ve expanded their horizons with a broad spectrum of subgenres without abandoning their deep roots.
RELEASE DATE: 25 May 2015 LABEL: Small Pond Recordings
Not long into Telekinesis, the opening track to the album, we recognize MOTB’s classic syncopated beats, aggressive rhythms, and technical lead guitar. But the approach in instrumentation is somewhat different and more complex – there’s an orchestral feeling emerging from the song that, with the fast lead guitar and the ensemble climax, we might compare to music from bands like And So I Watch You From Afar. And yet, at the same time, the clear clash of the rhythmic and melodic section gives a strong progressive rock touch to their math-rock sound; the crossing of the two genres brings to mind bands like Jardin de la Croix, or even The Cancer Conspiracy. While we can name-drop a bunch of bands (because MOTB sure are at times under their influences – sometimes a bit too much), they nonetheless carve a niche of their own in the end, distilling them all into an original record.
One of the specifics of this record is MOTB’s extensive use of clean guitar as a way to unclutter the aggressiveness of the whole ensemble without diminishing the power and energy of the song. The guitar, even without heavy distortion, is cutting edge and in-your-face, but at times switches to a more complex and mellow sound. Fin de Siäcle is a great example of a wonderful balance in musicianship; the mixture in sound and texture is definitely there, but the band manage to keep it together with the incredible energy they put into the song.
This also couldn’t be clearer than on dance AUTOMATON dance; with its electro/dance beat, it could almost fit in some underground techno club, or even a video game. This is where MOTB bring it all together, as we feel the energy and the fun the guys have in playing the song. To manage passing on all this enthusiasm and energy to the listener, especially with instrumental songs that aren’t exactly structured to be crowd-friendly, is a great achievement.
MOTB’s desire to expand on their musical influences has, with Digital Tropics, brought them to flirt more than ever with electronic music. It’s fair to say that implementing some electronic elements in math-rock or post-rock today isn’t exactly some kind of revelation. However, they manage to integrate it as part of their wider approach instead of just introducing the idea with one or two songs.
Before it grows in intensity, and with a simple change of pace in rhythm, their math-rock riff in Ice Ice Iceland forms what sounds like a mixture of IDM and post-rock. The structure of this song, not to mention those of others, reveals something deeper in MOTB’s experimentation with electronic music. Indeed, songs like Strobocop or Fin de Siäcle really feel as though they were composed as a an electronic anthem; there is the energetic, entertaining beat, followed by a noisy and slow breakdown that keeps you waiting before everything bursts into a climax of energetic drumming and an explosion of sound.
With Digital Tropics, MOTB stays in the big league of math-rock, and manages to evolve positively as a band in a way that will seduce a broader audience without upsetting their longtime fans.