Arms That Work – ATW (2014)

It is fair to say that the pedal is slowly becoming a demanded constituent in the contemporary guitar-centric math rock sound. It’s the equivalent of putting a bit of accent or vernacular on the basic guitar tone; the devices have almost become instruments in themselves. California’s Arms That Work are certainly not modest in their love for running their music through pedals; their love for pedals seems comparable to the likes (or loves) of Nick Reinhart of Tera Melos, if their latest effort, ATW, is anything to go by.

In ATW, Wes O’Lees scratchy vocals, which featured on the previous release Totalitarian Gov, have been dropped and the band has persevered as a two-piece, employing an array of pedal effects, MIDI electronics and other assorted goodies. ‘Narwhal’ begins as a simple punk routine, and quickly unfold into hook-rich math rock played out with POG octave pedals. ‘Biking In Santa Cruz’, probably the standout across the EP, wraps its chilled guitar work with interladen synth and MIDI effects. The embellishment of sound reaches its peak in ‘Biddle Boo’, a pedal-arific fruit salad lain over a quintuple meter. Overall, the album is predominantly played out in major scales, giving it a particularly cheerful feel. While the use of soundbites across the album is rather unusual, it never feels intrusive.

ATW espouses the same wacky cheer of northern UK bands like Cleft and Alpha Male Tea Party, bands that also experiment with complex riffs lathered in pedal effects. The album is probably best summarized in a little soundbite that appears in ‘It’s Like A Fireball’ regarding remakes: ‘…sounds familiar to something but isn’t that, so it feels like we’re discovering something new‘ (I’m sure the person in this soundbite actually meant ‘similar’ to something). It’s everything we’d expect from a pedal-centric math rock duo, and we like it that way.

File Under

Math rock, two-piece, heavy effects, experimental, instrumental

Sounds A Tad Like

Cleft, Alpha Male Tea Party, Tera Melos


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Los Angeles, California