Sydney band Meniscus have been producing instrumental post rock sound scapes live since 2005 and previously released an EP, but amazingly this is their first full length album. It doesn’t use your typical crescendo structure of a lot of post rock, yet it’s full of dynamics, experimentation, memorable melodies, prominent bass grooves and ever-shifting beats.
When you listen to “War of Currents” you need to remind yourself constantly that they are, musically at least, a three piece – Daniel Oreskovic on guitar, Alison Kerjean on bass and Cameron Brennan on drums and samples. The secret to their full sound lies in the ever-changing balance of the individual sounds they produce, pushing them forward and pulling them back, often without the listener realising it’s happening.
Their skilful use of samples at times provides an introduction to a song or bridge between its parts. While synth occasionally takes the lead, the electronics generally form a blanket for the other instruments to alternatively lie, sit, stand and stomp around on. The bass alternates between melodic lead, pulsating driving rhythm, and a more traditional foundation. The myriad beats help ensure you never get a feeling of sameness, despite being restrained in volume. Around all this the guitar dances and weaves, providing gentle hooks to full on passages of super fast strumming and power chords.
The title of the record “War of Currents” is a reference to Nikola Tesla, inventor of radio and alternating current, and, I presume, the battles he had with Edison, Trump and Marconi. Google it if you want to know more – it’s fascinating stuff and he was your archetypal “mad scientist”. The opening track, “Room 3327” is named after the room in the Hotel New Yorker where Tesla spent the last ten years of his life and opens with a reading from a published article before a steady drumbeat takes us into the body of the song .
The six tracks are all very individual but tied together by sufficient constants to generate a record that works well as a whole. “Immersion” is probably the stand out because it uses all of Meniscus’ trademark devices, from soft rolling bass and guitar over complex drum lines and nicely balanced samples, to loud staccato in unison and lightning strumming.
When bands call themselves “cinematic”, it can mean boring and having nothing to say. Those who do this stuff well find the perfect balance between subtle restrained sound and enough hooks and bursts of energy to keep your attention. In the case of Meniscus, the live show is truly cinematic, with a fourth ‘contributor’ (as they are described on the digipac), Marty Wong, who provides live visuals. Wong sets up his gear just as the others do; a huge screen and laptop being his instruments.
Often bands will need an extra guitar or two to bring to life on stage the sound of their recorded material, but not Meniscus. Live, Oreskovic regularly seems to develop three strumming hands and is soaking from sweat after 30 minutes. He joins the crowd, occasionally screaming to release the pent up energy. Kerjean’s fingers dance their way like fireworks around the fretboard pushing out the brilliant bass lines and Brennan provides the beats and samples with precision and variety. But with no one to noodle between songs as pedals are reset, it’s Wong’s short films and visuals that keep the continuity without needing a fourth or fifth on stage.
The point of me telling you this is that what you hear on the record is primarily the product of skill and great song writing, not of production in the studio, as good as that is. It’s moody, it’s thoughtful, it’s engrossing. It surprises, comforts and rewards.
So sit back, close your eyes, set your imagination to “fully charged”, and make your own cinematic experience to this soundtrack.
Available now throughBandcamp
Posted by Gilbert Potts