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Words By: Cal Roach
Mute Math :: 04.03.07 :: The Rave :: Milwaukee, WI
Since the release of their excellent self-titled debut album last year, New Orleans' Mute Math has been touring relentlessly - the best method of self-promotion without the risk of a payola scandal. Mute Math exists in a genre gray area with a sound that combines post-rock, synth-pop, jazz, dub, and punk into pop that's impossible to pigeonhole. The results have snagged them slots at Bonnaroo, the Warped Tour and Lollapalooza last year. Now, after a stint warming up crowds for The Fray, Mute Math is headlining small clubs with two other indie buzz bands in tow.
Mute Math by Jen Cray
The show must have actually started right on time, so I completely missed The Cinematics. Second opener Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin started out more distracted than detached, with believable heartbreak but lackluster, sloppy melodies. The band gained confidence as their set progressed, and by the time the drummer switched to guitar for the last few tunes, things got tighter and the various jangles pulled together. It was a good recovery to an ultimately rousing set.
Mute Math played to an enthusiastic, near-capacity crowd, opening with an extended version of the instrumental "Collapse," which showcased drummer Darren King, whose playing propelled the set from beat one. "Typical" revealed Paul Meany's vocals were weak in the mix, which seemed inappropriate given their prominence on the record, but the band played through, continuing with a stunning "Chaos" complete with an extended Reggatta de Blanc-era Police breakdown. Meany's reverb-soaked keys hypnotized in synch with Roy Mitchell-Cardenas' bass, while Greg Hill's guitar meandered closer and closer to the edge à la Mogwai on a retro-shoegazer spree. "Chaos" is a cliffhanger, and we got relief in "Photograph," a perfect pop song for the more adventurous music lover.
Paul Meany - Mute Math
Next, the group tried out a new tune as the light show really came into its own, with blazing white heat coils for a backdrop and swirling beams crisscrossing the stage. The new song was all about rhythm, developing from primitive to modern, emoting feverishly and then dissolving into an atmospheric haze. The set alternated between surging energy and subtle ballads. The players were adept at all moods but it became painfully clear during the ecstatic "Control" that Meany's voice had not held up over their punishing tour schedule. His stage antics began to get a little histrionic in overcompensation, but it was all absorbed by the fantastic playing of every member. Aside from being perhaps a bit overeager, Mute Math did not play like a band that's released only one album. Starting with great songs is key, but live the songs were especially vibrant, evolving with the band, stunning curious newcomers and veteran fans alike.
The set ended with an incredible performance of "Break The Same," which screamed to multiple climaxes, ending with an extended percussion/electronics jam that involved the drum kit being partially dismantled while being played. It smacked of Radiohead, only less rigid. For the encore, they stretched out on the instrumental "Reset," which was all over the place. They managed to create a gorgeous din that never got so anarchic that it wasn't loads of fun. There's no denying great expectations for Mute Math. Pop music needs a band like this, a brilliant light in the midst of more easily marketable dim bulbs. This band has a unique sound that has higher ambitions than indie marginalization and pop culture name-dropping. Mute Math wants to take over the world, and a performance like this makes people believe it could actually happen.
Check out Mute Math's "Typical" video here:
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