At first glance, Melencolia, the new release from Brighton trio Poly-Math might look like an EP or ‘mini-album’ with it containing three songs, but don’t be deceived because there is absolutely nothing mini about this album. The shortest track in length, ‘Ekerot’ comes in at just under 10 minutes and the combined three tracks clock-in at around 35 minutes, which harkens back to the days of when progressive rock albums would have single tracks taking up entire album sides. The opening track ‘Melencolia I’ is a sprawling musical odyssey more than it is a song, and throughout its 14-minute duration Poly-Math weaves in and out of more influences and genres than most bands can manage to do on a 40+ minute album. Defining Melencolia to one genre is nearly impossible, and it’s more than just post-rock and while the music also contains many progressive rock elements it’s not really a prog album nor do the songs sound dated in any way. Poly-Math delivers a fresh take on mixing math-rock, post-rock, and prog and ‘Melencolia I’ sounds just as much like Battles as it does King Crimson or The Mars Volta.
A major strength of the band is their approach to layering parts together and Melencolia shows further growth in their arrangements from last year’s Reptiles. While the three songs on the album are long in length, they don’t contain any needless parts and the entire album seems to flow almost effortlessly between beautiful soundscapes and airy melodies with thick, heavy riffs and trance like rhythm patterns. ‘Temptation of the Idler’ is a truly stand-out track that immediately begins with a hypnotic guitar loop and slowly builds to a point where the band takes a left-turn and delivers an epic train-derailing riff that sounds like something that could be mistaken as an instrumental passage from a Fall of Troy recording. The track continues to traverse into a waterfall of riffs that meld each new section of the song together until it peaks and drops into a somber and haunting soundscape fadeout in a style that sounds like what maybe would have been the outcome if Russian Circles had re-imagined Rush’s ‘Cygnus X-1 Book 1: The Voyage’.
Ultimately Melencolia delivers on all accounts. It is immersed in prog sentiment, but without all the pretentiousness and self-serving bombast. It has the dynamic depth and sonic precision found in the best post-rock, but without the boring predictability. It serves math-rock rhythms, but with subtlety in serving the songs and just as a means to over complicate arrangements. It’s because of bands like Poly-Math that your stereo volume knob goes up to 10, so listen to this album and use it to its full capability.
Progressive, experimental, math rock, instrumental, odd rhythms