There’s an episode of The Simpsons where Bart imagines himself as a rockstar. After having success, he embarks into an alcohol addiction, prompting Milhouse to diss him by saying “you’ve changed, Bart, you used to care about music!”. Bart the rockstar was now Bart the fat cautionary tale. A radical transformation for the worst.
On the opposite side of the scale, we have Ninetails, who last year regaled us with happy riffs and math rock cocktails in every track of their ep, Ghost Ride The Whip. Then they released ‘Blue Bottle Flu’ and it seemed they were galvanising that math rock muscle into one fierce cyber-arm.
Then something happened and it’s late 2012 and they have a 5 song EP called Slept and did not sleep. Just as the title warns you, there’s something entirely contradictory in the expansive sounds Ninetails offer in this release. Math Rock has been distilled several times, extracted with aggressive solvents and mixed into a new concatenation that involves some ambient and even musique concrète.
So, in the tradition of nonsensical analogies, let’s classify each song as a chemical compound:
‘Maybe we’ is an indicator solution. Let’s say Ferroin, the one you use in a titration to detect a change in pH. You use indicators to detect changes in solutions and this track is the first inkling of a change in the sound of Ninetails. The sonic landscapes are vast as the gardens of a sumptuous Estate, the structure of the track is so complex you feel it’s several songs perfectly crossfading seamlessly, with the occasional guitar lick coyly playing around. The vocal harmonies at the end are just gorgeous.
‘Body clock’ is an amphoteric substance, meaning that it reacts as both a base and an acid. In music terms, it’s two opposing genres being tackled deftly in one single track. The math rock bit includes some 80s-treated drums (gate reverb!) and just when the groove is really getting into you, the song vanishes into a gorgeous atmospheric landscape. Like that moment when you almost kiss someone but life gets in the way, the warmth and emotion remains as the moment slowly fades from becoming a reality. The slightly unnerving sounds are like bleeps lost in an underwater realm, with heavy swells dominating the scene, glitching from time to time.
‘Rawdon fever’ is pure Ninetails, so let’s say it’s a spiked sample you use to check the recovery rate of an analytical equipment. You use spiked samples to see if you are not losing anything inside the machine (and also to check how precise it really is when compared to known values). So we are checking up if this evolved Ninetails can comply the die-hard fans with a tried and true ditty. 98% recovery rate. Not bad at all.
‘Boxed in’ is a sequential extraction. You use this to slowly extract trace metals from a sample and see in which form they exist. So, basically, this mammoth ambient piece slowly unravels with many a strange, eerie sound undulating its way towards you. Just like sequential extractions, the results will vary differently from sample to sample, so your response to this track can either be love or hate. Me? I love this sort of experimental stuff, a perfect ditty to zone out to while watching the sky (day, night, it’s all good) or just before sleeping on a rainy night.
‘Mama Aniseed’ is the true test. You’ve developed your techniques with standards and now you are ready to tackle a couple of real world samples. So you get them, preserve them at 4 degrees Celsius and analyse them. You then do your replicates (three, natch) and after some serious number crunching, you do a victory dance ‘cuz you’ve found a couple of trends that you can happily report in a journal paper. ‘Mama Aniseed’ is the band successfully creating their own sound, their own musical DNA, with healthy doses of Math Rock and a firm grasp on aural experimentation.
It’s fair to say this EP finds Ninetails firing at all cylinders on the creative road to another whole level. So far, it’s an enjoyable ride.