It seems there’s something in the water near those Californian Sierra Foothills… something good. Sure, there’s a handful of decent bands from the area, but it’s also home to some true outliers in the field of math rock. Take Los Webelos for instance. In 2018, the band finally unleashed it’s beautiful, freewheeling freak show into the world nearly ten years after recording it.
Brotherhood‘s otherworldly, post-everything approach was awe inspiring, vacillating seamlessly between psychedelic math rock and surreal progressive soundscapes. It also featured some deft production from another Nor Cal standout, Carson McWhirter. You might recognize McWhirter’s name from his work with Hella, Ent, Holy Smokes, or Zach Hill‘s improv videos. He’s also got some incredible solo stuff going on.
It’s easy to see that the project had some serious vision to it, and certainly the means to achieve it. Everyone in the band was certainly talented enough. But being in a band can be hard, and for a while, Los Webelos’ first album also appeared to be their last. Well, until now.
Essentially the sequel to Los Webelos, Hypha continues down the same cinematic path but takes things a step further in every direction. The lineup expands this time around with third guitarist/keyboardist Ian Cambridge, and gets a sonic facelift courtesy of a mix by none other than Robbie Moncrieff, with Patrick Hill putting in the final touches at Earth Tone Studios. Robbie programmed the uncanny 8-bit magic for Zach Hill’s Who Do You Think You Aren’t?, and currently plays with Undo K From Hot and The Advantage, funnily enough with Carson McWhirter. He also played in Whose Your Favorite Son, God with Erik Woodard, one of the guitarists in Hypha that was initially in Los Webelos. Oh, and visual artist Z.E. Pangborn returns as well for the album artwork. It’s a seriously a fascinating collection of names if nothing else, but of course, the results are much, much more.
“Cosmic Divebar” is a great jumping off point for getting reacquainted with band’s taste for wide open space. Be sure to listen to it with headphones though, because you don’t want to miss any of the details. We don’t mean subtle lead lines being buried or layered beneath the mix – although the album can be densely layered, it’s done extremely tastefully. Moncreiff’s mix is impeccable, which shouldn’t be surprising, but it sort of is, considering dynamic he’s most often associated with.
This otherworldly attention to detail is met with a muted, but relentlessly tangible sense of urgency throughout the course of Syzygy. It’s not quite soundtrack music, and it’s not quite post-rock, but the band almost certainly draws inspiration from both. Fans of Los Webelos’ affinity for math-y, vaguely post-hardcore influenced digs should also have some stuff to chew on. “Full Circle” somehow reminds us of Coheed and Cambria, At the Drive-In, and Godspeed! You Black Emperor all at the same time. “Perseid Blues” and “Lysergic Synths” however, often give one the distinct impression they might have been written while gazing out the window of an interstellar craft.
Ultimately, Hypha is more than Los Webelos rising from the ashes. The vision is undeniably present, it’s just focused on the larger, long-term picture. It’s a natural product of long-term expansion, something the band knows a thing or two about, as guitarist Jacob Mingle expounds on here.
“Los Webelos originally formed in 2004 after the breakup of Tiger Friends. Friends Justin Haney, Mike Rowell, Erik Woodard, and Jacob Mingle got together to create an experimental sound that was without genre, without any strict rules of what a song should be or how to approach music in general. Drawing from their influences of metal, noise-rock, math-rock, indie-rock, ambient, punk and prog, they collectively began structuring riff based “songs.” What manifested was an instrumental version they’ve described as experi-metal, and senti-metal, finding a space between math and noise rock, sentimental crescendos, metal and goofy noodles…
Ten years later, we’ve managed to carve out some time to approach music collectively again, this time with the addition of longtime friend Ian Cambridge. Wanting to only write new material, and under the new moniker HYPHA, the sound remains similar, but maybe the ten years of life experiences has weighed a bit more on them. There are still the odd time signatures, goofy interludes, and sentimental beauty, but with a definite heavier tone to their sound.”
He pretty much nailed it at the end there, we gotta say. But Hypha’s debut wears the oxidation well – within a couple of songs, you can more or less tell it’s the same personalities. Both Brotherhood and Syzygy have a sense of wordless wonder to them, despite occasionally featuring vocals. There’s a real psychic connect somewhere in there, which almost becomes a sonic element of the record itself. Like that van full of kids in Stranger Things or something. Anyway.
If you’re looking for something frenetic, you’ll always have Los Webelos. But if you’re looking for something a little headier and grand, we recommend the sonic symphonies of Hypha all the way. Syzygy is officially out March 12.
You can find the album through the link above or clicking here. You can also check out that Los Webelos record we blabbed out half the time over here. But seriously, check out both. Coming up we’ve got GodsvsGodsvsGiantsvsReptiles, highlights of punk prog, Treefort Music Fest, and a real slick profile on the engineer that produced two of our favorite record from last year, if not even more. If you want to donate to FB you can do it here, but no worries either way. See you next time!