[CD Review] From Monument to Masses, 'On Little Known Frequencies' (Dim Mak)

Bay Area math/post/prog rockers From Monument to Masses have the industry standard panoramic, technically impressive tightness down, but they’ve also got brash spasms of chords that seep through the cerebellum, much like bands from Ian MacKaye’s Dischord Records do. They’re so full of sound that anyone could find what they like somewhere between the twitching kick-drum beats, but the average pop fan will be completely turned off by the complexity.

It’s entirely possible to listen to the politically charged On Little Known Frequencies, their fourth album, without hearing their mission—it plays like an instrumental album with subliminal messages. I never even noticed the documentary voice-over the first five times I heard “The First Five” (it’s about socio-political conditions in Mexico). All this fighting the power seems like it was sampled in after they spent hours diagramming the algorithm for the most complementary rhythmic patterns to go with the chord progressions before the reverse-time coda, or something terribly technical like that.

“An Ounce of Prevention” features excerpts from a rabble-rousing speech about the odiousness of “the machine.” The music crumbles into a flat-lining heart-rate-monitor beep, only to grow into a flutter of melody that balloons from its own ashes. The happy/hypnotic guitar—there’s some Les Savy Fav in there—that ends “(Millions of) Individual Factories” falls into the ethereal intro of “Beyond God & Elvis” so fast it feels like a carnival ride. The rebellious undertones add to the weightiness, and a song can be as icy as something from post-rock pioneers Shellac, but From Monument to Masses seem to become aware of the musical boundaries of such emotions; at just the right time, they’ll break into the kind of pleasantly ephemeral jams that can float over anything.

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