Monday, September 29, 2014

moyamoya self titled debut on Fort Lowell Records

I love instrumental rock, from Can to Mogwai from The Mahavishnu Orchestra to Don Caballero from John Fahey to The Fucking Champs. But instrumental rock is in direct odds with the format I love too. Seven inch releases by any of these artists are obviously few and far between - as they should be. No more than six minutes - and at 33 ⅓? That’s not nearly long enough to stretch out not to mention the compromised fidelity which might be acceptable if you were listening mostly to the vocals. When laid out bare in the tiny format it had better be at least cut at 45 or you’re doing a disservice to the complex arrangement. Fortunately on this self titled full length release from moyamoya on Fort Lowell Records they weren’t willing to compromise and went for the six track long playing LP. It’s no surprise then this is the result of five years of evolving songwriting. Ross Severson from Canyons of Static mentioned once the unbelievable amount of time it took to write material for an album as a group and that touring with that material required even more rehearsal to be able to perform a set every night. It’s an unnatural feat of endurance that doesn’t end in the studio.

“sorry I called you he-man” graduated from the Tortoise school of instrumental attention to detail. It’s not attempting the blown out cinematic plateaus as much as making sure to capture all the intricacies of each performance. The guitar is just a small part of a whole that doesn’t rely on heavily manipulated tones processed after the fact. It’s simply another element to add to this evolving mix that feels at times like it has a lot more in common with Jazz. The capture of a slight return from a drumstick bouncing back off a brass high hat is given as much weight as the crunch of sustained epic strings, it’s almost an absurdly high resolution for the range of dynamics. They break on the track for the hum of ungrounded cables and low end guitar noise to loop and change the rhythm. The bass and kick line up while guitars infinitely delay and separates in its own direction. Even when they get more atmospheric they have an insane amount of control over the individual pieces. Taking a sound and bending it into repeated noise isn’t something that was meant to be controlled but they manage tight changes even with those elements of unpredictability.

The track titles on the record are even in the style of Don Caballero and their feeling that they’re pointless, empty signifiers. There’s no statement to be made in titling the composition. They’re meaningless non sequitur fragments because you should be listening to the track.

“full-on half-wit” has a jazzy Shellac feel introducing a slight groove in the bent chords and jagged, angular crunch. It’s an aggressive quirky sound that references Mr. Albini in more than just heavy compression. The harmonic strikes of strings, barely pressing on the frets halts the piece in an extremely slow moment that feels more interested in the overall contrast, how each track is exploring those huge swings in mood and style and the limits of that pendulum swing. Working slowly back up to speed it ends up in compressed shards of distortion, pushing the sound almost into a synth wave blending the entire chord of notes into one unibrow. Moyamoya has a delicate touch, gently guiding the gymnastics of shifting rhythms and time signatures, but they won’t let you forget you’re listening to a carefully rehearsed show, a highly choreographed performance that is the culmination of endless amounts of time and effort. Not just in rhythm but in swapping effects with equal variety and speed, they aren’t ever making things easy. As soon as this melody is introduced it changes to another equally complex section. A cymbal ride gradually increases with the huge sound of these layered guitars but doesn’t get the best of them. It also doesn’t offer a mental break to appreciate the waves of blown out amplification that continue crashing. Oscillating from an epic high speed groove to a shoegaze inspired Explosion in The Sky psychedelic sound it puts the rest of their frantic energy into perspective. There isn’t a moment of rest, they’re compelled to get faster and louder, building to an impossible height only to knock it back down multiple times in the same song with no restraint. They’re too smart not to know this stacked monument is getting too big to support its own weight but always continue past the point where they could have safely backed off ignoring the laws of gravity.

“spurgeon-haddix” is as ominous as the law firm sounding title with a fret tapped melody in conversation to their previous track. Crunchy in all treble that delicate technical tapping, making sure it’s extra impossible to duplicate live. Moyamoya are constantly taking you by surprise, the slight changes that slowly add up to a new massive whole are like that that summer camp serial killer who disappears every time you turn around. There’s also a real sense of a distance travelled, it’s exhausting stuff, the guitars endlessly building and toppling over, any brief pause driven under by fast picking rides and sustained distortion. It’s a study in two opposing sides reacting exponentially larger to one anothers actions. Each phrase and tone has to get bigger and bigger until there can be nothing left. But you can’t expect to live in this heightened state of awareness. It’s an induced jittery buzz that has you nervously looking over your shoulder just as you start to appreciate any given groove. It’s a delicious, perfect cupcake with a tiny belligerent mouth that’s screaming “HURRY UP AND EAT ME!”.

Released digitally this Tuesday, Sept 30th and on brown vinyl limited to 500 copies to ship October 28th from Fort Lowell Records. Exclusive stream below and preorder that vinyl here.


  1. Thanks for this review - These guys are making incredible music! "Spring Guide to Fashion" is the highlight for me.

  2. Heavy Eddie Money influence in the drum sound

  3. Good stuff! Thanks for the heads up.