Chung Antique emerges with their first full-length release, Sweater Weather, on SF’s 20 Sided Records, as a slightly more mature yet still playful instrumental trio. A product of the new post-grunge, second-wave, math-rock scenes currently flourishing in the Pacific Northwest, Chung Antique is impressively adept at their craft for a band releasing their first LP on a label. Their two previous self-released tapes captured much of the energetic spirit of the band’s DIY presence in Olympia, where they met while at Evergreen College. Sweater Weather surpasses that early energetic output and polishes each faceted side.
Combining influences of post rock, instrumental bands like Giraffes? Giraffes! and Hella, the legacy of loud/soft 90’s bands and the new math that is springing up in pockets of the Seattle, Olympia and Portland scenes, Chung Antique alludes to yet remains undefined by these catchphrases. They manage a complexity without being overly complicated. Compositional themes repeat, with floating lead guitar knitting intricate instrumentations together like a lovingly-worn comfortable sweater, guiding the mood and tonal direction of each piece. Their style floats between genres, yet maintains a nice pop approachability. Add to that a lyrical guitar quality and a conversational approach to the crisp syncopation of both drums and bass. This album beautifully represents what a great live band they are.
First track “Former Farmer”, perhaps a nod to drummer Whitney B.’s Minnesota roots, sets the mood. From a mellow start, cycles of riffs build, interspersed with breaks, starts and stops, carefully winding back down through a soundscape of whirling effects and simple clean guitar lines transcending it all with a final flourishing crescendo. The next track is the tongue-in-cheekily titled “Stop Making Synths”; Chung Antique is, according to guitarist Charlie Z., a “spoonerism for tongue in cheek”. The geometries of riffs intersperse, from clean to over-driven guitars, accented by Mike B.’s deep mathy bass riffs amidst the elegant and precise drumming of Whitney. “Baking Brad” builds through bass and floor tom rumblings, accompanied by a driving melodic train with jazz-styled cuts, punctuations and fluid swells. On “Siskiyou and I”, Charlie’s guitar is both painterly and pointed, from full and distorted to refined and complex, with layers of beautiful guitar sounds, squeaks and growls. These tones provide the conversational standpoint that replace vocals, but with songs so well composed you don’t miss them. Still a favourite track, “Room With a Door”, first released on their pink tape, “Go Poetry!”, follows. Not all smooth listening, the meticulously rendered polish is accompanied by some jaggedness in the shape of carefully placed distorted shredding. “Room” also showcases the band’s capacity to play in non-standard time signatures. The more thoughtful “Bagel Blue Eyes”, a new favourite, imbues a sonic landscape with warm intonations, accenting each contemplative inflection and timbre with swelling gestures and dynamic shifts.
The cyclical nature of the songs will leave you humming for days. I can’t wait to see what detour their musical journey will take them on next. Their upcoming tour takes them to the PRFBBQ in Chicago; maybe Mr. Albini will want to have a word with these mathy folks.