Monday, February 3, 2014

Random - Pidanoma (2014)

What's in a name? Part rhetorical question, part honest inquiry. if you were to look through decades of heavy metal band names, there would surely be a large quantity that were one dimensional, and able to be taken at face value. Bands can pick a name that describes their goal, their sound, or even their heroes. Dying Fetus brings up imagery that fits their style. Rhapsody Of Fire implies symphonic elements. But then you have those that seem deeper than surface value. Opeth. Katatonia. So, which category, then, do you put a band who chooses a name that could be appreciated or maligned at any moment? Random, a three piece from Argentina, seem to have chosen a moniker that could be left open for a different kind of interpretation; an argument that you could never win, or, conversely, never lose. They play a style of music that screams avant garde or extreme, yet play it in a way that makes it seem easy to understand. Either way, listening to their latest album, an hour long journey titled "Pidanoma," is like an experiment in word play, timing, and a mind trip all at once.

There is something to be said about an album that grabs you from the very onset, something that "Pidanoma" does with little effort or time. The bass lead on to "Corto Normal" is as catchy as a hook, but as technically sound as a lead. The dizzying array of drum beats and cymbal crashes is fodder for any of a million styles of headbanging or hair swinging, pulling you further into their web of complex structures. Groove laden but beautifully heavy, it rests on guitarist and vocalist Raul Garcìa Posee to round out what would be the perfect six minute package. Not only do his vocals do that justly, but they fall into the category of being perfectly imperfect; cleanly delivered with a healthy dose of raspy energy. And while the intentionally cloudy and muffled "Ojota y Media" may be just a two minute interlude, it has a life of its own, living and breathing with a series of kick drums that cut through it all.

This is the music you fight; the music you try to resist but simply can't. Tracks like "Mee Chango" give you every reason to let go and allow yourself to fall into the center of the mix. It's the combination of the timely execution of basics, combined with the eclectic variations that works so well. Posee wails and howls over the top, but his voice is one with the mix below it. So, too, is the scant saxophone work of Adrian Terrazas Gonzalez, of The Mars Volta, that creates a sense of chaos at times, while providing calm at others. It's the ebb and flow here that dictates so much, rising and falling with each movement. All the while drummer Marckos Crosa tirelessly hammers down beats in minimalist and extreme proportions, sometimes delivering simple clicks before exploding into a an epic roll or fill. His work adds to the mystique of the track, one that brings to mind the freshness and avant garde history of free form jazz. There may be a point A and point B, but this is clearly not the straight line approach between the two, detouring into sweeping guitar melodies and aggressively plucked and slapped bass lines. It's like the trajectory of Naval ship crossing the Atlantic, looping back around in a pattern that may seem bizarre to those watching from afar.

What you have learned to this point, however cliche it might be, is to expect the unexpected; a fitting thought for a band with the name Random. But there is proof in the musical pudding that this music is anything but, and "Mia Gato Está Solo en la Oscuridad," translation aside, is exactly that.What seems like nonsense is actually a carefully constructed piece of art that resonates like the ringing distortion it uses. One passage is an airy melody, a guitar crying in the most moving way, and in the next you are peppered with a series of kicks and cymbals. Again, this can't be a mistake or coincidence that all of these oddly shaped pieces fit together in just such a way; this is meticulously planned, orchestrated and calculated effort on the part of three musicians with an endless stream of talent and vision. Around the eight and half minute mark, three divergent pieces of music come together. Separately, they would sound like noise, unfit for harmony. Yet together, as chaotic as it may seem, they work. Bassist Pablo Lamela Bianchi is a frontman in his own right, his bass work as dynamic as any lead guitar or vocal could be. The final six minutes here are mind boggling, yet breathtaking.

How is it that an album with no clear path can come full circle? It would be difficult to find a more fitting end to this musical journey than the diabolically long and yet not nearly long enough "Guri Guri Tres Piñas." Standing at a robust twenty minutes, it is the best example of contrast and progression that comes to mind. Building from a whispering melody, one that is so softly played, into a sea of crashing cymbals and rising vocals, it arches in the same way that the album does; up and down, side to side. Admittedly, this is not the something for everyone scenario that most bands strive for; you have to be willing to let go of your preconceived notions to fully immerse yourself in this. if you are stuck in the verse, bridge, chorus, verse, bridge, lead, bridge, verse, outro structuring, then you might want to sit this one out. But if you've ever wanted to see evolution take place right before your eyes and ears, there is no better place to start than right here.

So, then, we must reiterate the premise here. What's in a name? For Random, it seems to say so much, and yet nothing at all. Because what it describes is music without borders, without boundaries, that can come and g as it pleases without fear of failure. But what it also says is that there is no structure, or a lack of direction, something that clearly couldn't be farther from the truth. Somehow, these three men embody both sides of that coin so flawlessly that to debate either side would put you in the right. If you were to tell me that all three members recorded separate instrumentals, unknown to one another, and layered them together for the finishes product, only hoping it would mesh, I might be inclined to believe you. But if you told that they sat for months, figuring out new mathematics to make these time signatures work together and play nicely, only to record and rerecord until every note fit snugly next to the others, I would believe that too. Either way, random have proven to be a a force, redefining even the basis of their own name. And "Pidanoma" is an avant testament to it.


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