17 January 2014 (Self Released)
By: Joe DeBonis
It just makes sense to mix math rock and punk. Screaming vocals, full of emotion and guttural energy combined with calm, quick guitar work seems so opposite from each other but in reality fit together like peanut butter and jelly. On the opening track of Math Major, “Banana Boat,” the album starts with a bang. From the quick and insanely fast math rock guitar work as the intro right up to the chorus of crashing drums and screaming, the whole song brings both punk and math rock together into a mixture hailing both fan groups expertly. Anyone who enjoys the intricate guitar work of math rock would enjoy the way Art Contest plays their instruments but anyone who enjoys a good mosh and intense songs full of pounding drums, intense vocals and thunderous guitar can find solace in the way “Banana Boat” breaks down. It’s a combination of musical styles that just was meant to be.
I like the genre title Art Contest awards themselves on their Facebook page a lot: probability and statistics rock. To simplify that I would just refer to the music they play as moshing math rock. Most math rock does not give off the same kind of aggressive energy that Art Contest is going for. Their songs have the same quick pace that math rock does, but the sound is harsher, more volatile and overall just lends itself better to smashing into fellow concertgoers. It is a take on a genre that is both refreshing and invigorating at the same time. There has always been a kind of energy that surrounds math rock, but adding in the vicious sounding vocals and intense volume of the instruments at key times in each song adds a whole other level to what math rock can be.
“Shish Kebab” is a perfect example of the way vocals can change the entire feeling of an album. On that track they are raucous and throaty, not smooth or delicate like on other math rock albums. By having vocals that do not follow the normal trend of math rock, the rest of the music can step outside of the stereotypes and add vigor to the music that can encourage moshing and such from the fan base.
The entire album does not subscribe to this genre combination though, which adds more to the overall success of the project. “Bedtime” does not have the moshing elements but instead falls to math rock roots of methodical guitar playing surrounded by other instrumentation. The album has a good ebb and flow in that way, where sometimes Art Contest does a good job of staying true to their roots while also pushing their own horizons.
Math rock is all about having fun. Adding some little punk elements to a math rock album does wonders for the amount of fun a crowd can have at a show and if nothing else, makes the head bangability of each song increase ten fold. Art Contest are doing great things out in South Carolina and as they continue to put out more music, the chances of them working harder to incorporate other kinds of music into their style are very high.
Rating: Loved It