Polyrhythms, Garages, and Fuck You: 10 Math-rock Performances


Maps & Atlases: Artichoke
I love the context of this 2009 Maps & Atlases video: a NYU performance opening for Phosphorescent and The National. The sound and look of this Chicago-based band has changed a lot over the years. While their facial hair and onstage aesthetic has grown more creative as time went by, Maps & Atlases will never be as precise and musically coordinated as they are in this video. I got a chance to see them last year when they were touring on their “Beware and Be Grateful” album, which was considerably more poppy than any of their previous releases. They played “You Me and the Mountain”, the title track from the same album as “Artichokes”. It was pleasing to hear the tune, but they were definitely out of touch from their math-rock roots. At least their experiment can live on forever on YouTube.

fago.sepia: Quatorze
France-based fago.sepia open up this library set with “Quatorze”, the first track (not the fourteenth) off their 2013 album The Resume. Even though the drums are draped with a sheet and the sound quality is a bit muffled, this performance still packs a powerful punch. fago.sepia excel in creating fascinatingly intricate music with jerky time changes, all while producing a very clean sound that mirrors their technical precision.

Tera Melos: Slimed
This is by far one of my favorite songs off of the Sacramento trio’s X’ed Out from 2013; and this live performance from Cock and Bull TV is especially heavy. While this song isn’t as technically complex as a lot from their other catalog, I admire the band’s ability to have a steady repetition throughout and still keep it exciting. I also really enjoy guitarist Nick Reinhart’s vocal melody in the small phrases as he sings “You can be my wave”. The outro featuring the same lyrics definitely showcases his vocal ability as well.

Death Grips: Guillotine
Okay, Death Grips isn’t math rock, but this live performance of The Money Store’s “Guillotine” has always been a favorite of mine. This is one of the best Death Grips performances I’ve seen online where Flatlander, MC Ride, and Zach Hill are all very in sync with one another. It’s also always fun to see Zach shred hard over 4/4.

Deerhoof: Exit Only

This also isn’t one of the more technically complex songs from San Francisco’s Deerhoof, but it still incorporates some great time changes in an otherwise straightforward piece. This was one of the heavier songs from last year’s La Isla Bonita and its velocity translates well in this performance. I was lucky enough to catch this show at Baby’s All Right back in November and the set featured lot of great math-based Deerhoof tracks. The band closed with “Come See the Duck”, an incredibly fun and impressive song that the whole audience got join in on. Singer and bassist Satomi Matsuzaki and the ever-talented drummer Greg Saunier make for one hell of a show.

Piglet: Mad Science

Piglet reissued their debut EP, Lava Land last year and included this song, “Mad Science” as a bonus track to the record. It shortly became one of my favorite songs ever from the band, and this live video from a house show is a real treat. I’m not sure exactly when it took place, perhaps around the time the EP was released (2005) but we can be grateful that someone captured this performance and uploaded it.

Pretend: legs to walk us, to drop us

Southern California’s Pretend bring a whole new level of beauty to instrumental math-rock. The repetition of the four-piece’s twinkly guitars seem like a form of guided meditation at times, as does most of their sole release Bones in the Soil, Rust in the Oil. The dark purple lighting and overexposed christmas lights in the video make for a very fitting companion to Pretend’s brand of garage.

WITT: There’s Blood

One of San Diego’s greatest math-rock bands, WITT, came and went too soon, leaving behind an extremely impressive EP. 2009’s There’s Blood is a perfect slice of avant-garde jazz-influenced math rock (how’s that for hyphenations?) that can’t really be compared to any one math-rock record. This footage from their last show, appropriately held at UCSD’s Che Café, showcases the opening 8 minutes of the There’s Blood EP. It’s played so well, you almost can’t tell it apart from the recording itself. WITT has been reincarnated into many bands including members from the next video’s band, Japandi.

Japandi: Dawn of The Dad

This video of Japandi bringing in the New Year starts off with Future Crooks’ Mike Rogers, fawning over the band and being shocked by the amount of people at the house show. This performance of The Great Dinosaur Mystery’s “Dawn of the Dad” was definitely deserving of a large audience, with drummer Marc Deriso speeding up the track to make the song even more technically impressive than it already was. Be sure to check out the other videos from this 2008 NYE show in the related videos column, they’re all worth a watch.

Paper Mice: Live on WHPK

My latest math-rock obsession has been Chicago’s Paper Mice. When I was first shown this live set from WHPK, I watched most of it over again directly after. The explosive emotional bursts combined with the ultra-techincality makes for an extremely stimulating performance. There’s not a bad song in this whole set – the band is so together, I kept watching just to see if they’ll mess up. (Spoiler: they don’t.) The video features songs from both of their releases; 2012’s The Funny Papers and 2009’s Paint it Pink. Notice how much fun they’re having with the set as well, like they know how fucking good they are. If you liked this video, make sure to watch part 2 to hear their track “Fresh Hair” about former Chicago governor Rod Blagojevich.

This is a guest post by @locustmanor, aka the radiant Brandon Kirshner.


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