The words ‘math’ and ‘punk’ appear to have a bit of extra co-dependence at the moment. Most of the time they are used rather callously to describe punk music with a slight guitar ‘twinkle’ (a term which I hate). It is fair conjecture that the fruits of math rock have stemmed from punk roots, most notably from 80’s bands such as Nomeansno and Squirrel Bait. However, the bona fide mix of complex math rock and raw energetic punk, a combination almost impossible to synthesize in nature, appears to be in fine supply in these pressing times.
The tumultuous LA two-piece 100 Onces are ready to prove me wrong in their latest effort, 100 Onces. Two-pieces, by their very nature, almost always end up sounding loud simply due to their having to compensate for the lack of a bassist (Lightning Bolt, Pneu, Zeus! and Hella are all key examples). And for its two-man production, 100 Onces is indeed an extremely loud record, serving up complex guitar hooks, humorous inter-song banter, and general cacophony. Richard Ray’s percussion is a mix of thrash, punk and metal sensibilities, and Barret Tuttobene’s guitar work moves from pedal-heavy footwork in ‘Crossed Irish’ to djent-style downtuned palm muting in ‘Bounce’ and ‘Sr Kate’. Combined, their sound is highly technical. While there are indeed inexplicably punk tracks on the record, ‘Science Can’t Explain Magic’ and ‘Boredor Patrol’ being key candidates here, the punk nature of 100 Onces comes from its lack of foundation. Structurally, there really is no set course, the substance of the record is spat out at the listener, impervious to any set doctrine. 100 Onces play what they want to play, and they play it loudly.
At ear value, 100 Onces‘ punk ethos seems at odds with the scrupulous and technical virtuosity of its substance, an interesting paradox of sorts. Punk is foremost an attitude than a genre; it is reliant on the release of emotion, typically borne from social, political or cultural frustration. Musically, it is a self-aware breakdown of well-constructed foundations in commercial music, not simply sluggishness or sloppiness. In one sense, math rock adopts elements of the punk ideology in that it is a rethinking of the commonalities in music composition, yet its meticulous and elaborate stylistic tendencies make it appear as well-crafted aesthetics, something far removed from ‘punk’. 100 Onces takes this idea full circle: while it is a technical record, 100 Onces retain the callous punk nature of being loud and rambunctious, disordering the order and never following a predefined path. This is real math-punk.
Math rock, two-piece, instrumental, experimental, noise rock, punk rock