The king is dead, long live the king. So it goes with the passing of Cleft last year, the best-loved of the underground math rock bands, and de-facto ArcTanGent Festival house band. When you’re a regular fixture at the biggest post-rock and experimental festival in the world and you call it quits, there’s bound to be interest in what comes next. It’s appropriate then that ArcTanGent’s first line-up announcement for 2017 contains a newcomer – Gug, a supergroup of sorts comprising Dan Wild-Beesley of Cleft on baritone guitar, Tom Peters of Alpha Male Tea Party on drums and Ben Forrester on vocals. They’ve released just one track, the raucous Life; Aquatic (self-released), but it’s probably fair to expect great things from the trio.
Another essential upcoming experimental record is the self-titled debut LP from supergroup Crystal Fairy. Formed of Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover from the Melvins, with Teri Gender-Blender of Le Butcherettes and Bosnian Rainbows on vocals, the group is completed by Teri’s collaborator from Bosnian Rainbows, prog wunderkind Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, of The Mars Volta and At The Drive-In. It’s a sludgy, uncompromising record, but there’s scarcely a bad riff on it. For their most Soundgarden, late 80s riffage, try Moth Tongue; for a relentless psychedelic churn, Secret Agent Rat (Ipecac).
Veteran shoegazers SPC ECO – the current project of cult hero Dean Garcia from Curve – are back with an atmospheric release in the form of the Under My Skin EP (self-released), a gorgeously seductive entry in their dark ambient catalogue, and a worthy distillation of 2015’s Dark Matter LP with some extra cuts. Check out the title track, or, for something more up-tempo, the faintly industrial Silent, Maybe from last year’s excellent Anomalies album.
Another band that called it quits in recent months was Enemies, though the eclectic experimentalists left a parting shot in the form of Valuables (Topshelf), their final record. The standout track is gauzy Glow, featuring a wonderful guest vocal from Louise Gaffney, but math freaks will enjoy the Minus The Bear-like Leaves equally. For an album so complex, it’s melodically catchy yet instrumentally cerebral, and it vindicates the legacy of the band that their strongest album should be their last.
Finally, a brief diversion into some records that might have dropped off the radar in late 2016. Japan’s cult heroes LITE dropped a stellar album in the form of Cubic (topshelf), an angular, jazzier development of their sound and well worth a listen. Check out highlight Square for a taste of their crossover electronic chops, or Angled and Prism for more guitar-centric tracks. Also worth checking out is the latest release by Canadian math metallers Protest The Hero. Drip-feeding a mini-album out to fans using a subscription model, the resulting tracks were collected and remastered into Pacific Myth. While not as strong as last LP Volition, the band remain potent despite line-up changes and this whets the appetite for their next album.