It’s beyond question that one of North Carolina’s spiciest, most flavorful dishes when it comes to math rock is Ahleuchatistas. From their seemingly unpronounceable name to their meditative yet explosive sound, the band has always seemed tailor-made for the odd-ball crowd, but their newest album Expansion sees them growing weirder and more accessible at the same time.
Though Ahleuchatistas has introduced a plethora of new sonic ingredients to the table over since their acid jazz-tinged 2003 debut On the Culture Industry, the band actually pares down a bit here. This might sound counter-intuitive to their normal formula, but luckily the band seem conscious of this as they tastefully merge the experimentalism of Arrebato with more of an organic, guitar-based sound.
In fact, this palpable yet not-terribly-dramatic sidestep in terms of overall tone works out to their benefit in the extreme. Check out the dense, Don Caballero-esque “Megamegalopolis” below for a taste of zany guitar loops, jazz bass virtuosity, and non-stop percussive excellence.
It seems that at every twist and turn, Expansion proves to be an apt description for the record. The exponentially winding, not-quite-non-linear structure of songs like “Time Ends Careerism” and “What’s Your Problem” betray the band’s growing affinity for math rock, and the suite of “RPG’s” highlight this fascination in record time before giving way to the dusky title track.
Despite the impressive nature of everything that comes before it, “Expansion” just might be the highlight of the album, with a haunting, desolate vibe somewhere between the extended jams of the Mars Volta‘s Frances the Mute and the King Crimson-obsessed side of Giraffes? Giraffes!. These tense, evocative moments occasionally surface throughout the record, but they all seem to inform the drama of the closing track as it ultimately expands into a fittingly ethereal and disparate collage. It was about this moment in our listening session that it all started to make sense that the band’s current lineup features Trevor Dunn of Mr. Bungle on bass and Danny from Terms on the drums, even as the dynamics descend into the unknown.
Whether or not this rejuvenated blend of the band’s angsty-er, angular side with heady prog vision is just an experiment for Ahleuchatistas or a glimpse into the future, the resulting Expansion makes for some of the most satisfying results of the year, and possibly their greatest album yet. Shane Parish’s foray into solo material has been a fine diversion, but this is a triumphant return.
For what it’s worth, Expansion is also one of those records that comes out so diabolically late in the year that it leaves a lot of those prematurely published Top 25-50 articles looking a little starved in retrospect (it’s not even Christmas yet come on, y’all), but hey – that’s why we typically wait till the actual end of the year. Even if this bad boy technically came out in October. Oh hey, speaking of, our TOP 50 Math Rock Releases of 2022 is just around the corner. That’s right – this year, 25 simply wouldn’t do it, and we can’t wait to share it with you! Regardless, check out the Ahleuchatistas discography on Bandcamp here, and buy us a coffee here if you feel so inclined. We’ve got a couple more articles to squeeze out before the year’s end, including a much awaited interview with our own mum, so hang tight. Thanks for reading!