Put together great musicians from diverse backgrounds and you are bound to get something special. That is what happens with Anatomy of Habit and their debut album. With an impressing line up which includes guitarist Will Lindsay of Indian, drummer John McEntire of Tortoise, percussionist Theo Katsaounis of Joan of Arc, bassist Kenny Rasmussen (previously of Radar Eyes) and of course fronted by Mark Solotroff of Bloodyminded, you can be sure that this is bound to be interesting. The band had already released an EP back in 2012, giving us a first taste of their sound and raising the expectations.
It is quite difficult to pinpoint the style of Anatomy of Habit, since each member puts a piece in the musical identity puzzle. In the two songs of Ciphers + Axioms (which run for more than twenty minutes each), the band is able to throw together post-rock, deathrock, noise, post-punk and doom to create their own twisted outlook of reality. What is stunning about this band is how they are capable of retaining fluidity, especially when things take a turn for the more abstract, as they do in the opening track where the mixture of doom metal and post rock in the beginning of “Radiate and Recede” gives out a very mesmerizing vibe.
Throughout the record Mark Solotroff gives a great performance on the vocals. The manner in which his voice accompanies the music is splendid. The big vocals in the start of both songs create an imposing feeing which is overwhelming to say the least. Especially the evolution of the tonality of Solotroff’s voice in “Radiate and Recede” is astounding, starting from the big, almost narrative sound and steadily becoming more threating and menacing, finally breaking out full-blown extreme about twelve minutes in the song, with screams all over the place. A thing of beauty, Solotroff’s voice gives a huge boost to the nature of the band’s modus operandi. On top of the repetitive patterns that they implement and their mesmerizing melodies, they create a magnificent sonic illusion.
Anatomy of Habit masterfully creates maze-like structures which overpower the listener. The first four minutes of “Radiate and Recede” are able to submerge you in their abstract concepts with ease, while the “Ciphers and Axioms” lines in “Then Window” keeps being repeated over and over again, slowly grinding your mind. Especially though the final part of “Then Windows” the circling nature of Anatomy of Habit really stands out, with the noise side of the band taking over completely, slowly deconstructing the song to its most basic parts. The percussion also aids greatly in all this, always coming up with some interesting sounds and adding an extra texture on the sonic pallet of Anatomy of Habit. On top of all that Lindsay’s guitar lines tie in perfectly. Whether they are taking a turn for the more hypnotic, as they do in the first part of “Radiate and Recede,” or the more dreamlike guitar vibe, about four minutes in “Then Windows,” it is always interesting and enticing. And once in every while of course, you will get the heavier parts of the band, when they bring out their doom-ier vibe. The thundering drums and heavy riffs about four minutes in “Radiate and Recede” really stand out, as do the doom riffs about six minutes in the opening song. There are even turns when things get more furious, for instance about eight minutes in “Radiate and Recede” and in the beginning of “Then Windows.”
Still with that impressive lineup what is expected is what Anatomy of Habit do in terms of sonic experimentation, and in Ciphers+Axioms they do not disappoint. The background sounds are key for the concepts of the band. The guitar adds greatly in the first two minutes of the opening song, adding more variation to the part, while the implementation of feedback, for example about fourteen minutes in “Radiate and Recede,” will melt your face off, leading to a clinic of experimentation of the guitar sounds in the ending of the song and an exploration of its capabilities. And in “Then Windows” it just blows out of proportion, with the fantastic build up for the first ten minutes leading up to an anti-climactic change while the guitar is trying out some stranger sounds, which manage to always sound suitable for the music.
The noise input of Solotroff is quite obvious in the album, even though it is kept on a tighter lease. “Radiate and Recede” seems to be flirting with noise but never really giving in to it completely. Especially about six minutes in the song, the noise background seems to be ready to take over completely and change the setting to a more ambient music moment. And of course in the second half of “Then Windows” you get the great input of noise slowly oppressing the music until it recedes and the track is deconstructed.
Even though Ciphers + Axioms contains such a plethora of different musical concepts, the members of the band are able to keep them in check and focus on the big picture. The album manages to remain interesting throughout and will not let you catch your breath for an instant.
7.8 / 10
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