There are many different ways to be challenging, and sometimes less is more. In the case of Belfast’s Robocobra Quartet, that’s a minimal mix of early post-hardcore and jazz, played off against spoken word vocals that recall the style of Ian MacKaye from Fugazi. The post-hardcore period of course was heavily influential on the prog threads that were to become math- and post-rock, and echoes of that are here, for instance on rhythm-driven Correct and You’ll Shrug; Find X, sounds like Don Caballero with Pharaoh Sanders guesting on sax.
It gets quite avant-garde as well; Problem Solver and Straight Lines are little more than a poem set to a synth pad gently pulsing in the middle distance, but most songs are have drive. Album highlight Dirge For Self is powerfully understated, with bass pads and dissonant sax framing menacingly performed vocals.
Album Of The Year could be early 2000s Radiohead, as a piano and drum groove offsets a post-rock build and shredding sax motifs. Music For All Occasions may be challenging, but it’s not inaccessible – catchier than much modern jazz, and less aggressive than most post-hardcore, it treads a comfortable middle ground while innovating at the same time.