There are perfect records and then there are perfect records. As a die-hard proponent of all things instrumental, ed I realize that my opinion skews when it comes to wordless rock music. Or solidly produced instrumental beats. Or the combination of the two. I’d be naive to expect Pitchfork to slap a 9.9 on On Little Known Frequencies, the newest From Monument to Masses masterpiece (unless there was some Animal Collective connection…) but that doesn’t mean I have to hold back. Contemporary Instrumental Rock has always been on the outside looking in, indifferent to trends, deferential to personal connection and probably, by its own admission, a little bit nerdy (in the best possible way.)
But relatively speaking, in a world where Breadwinner, Tortoise and Don Caballero assume places of royalty, this record should be canonized. From start to finish, it’s a masterfully executed, impeccably produced journey and should be celebrated not for its obvious aesthetic strong points — musicianship, songwriting, tone — but for the more subtle yet no less relevant nuances. FMTM are a band that set out with a clear mission to do more with less — often instrumental music suffers from a certain sameness by eschewing vocals. Indeed, and as much as I hate to admit it, it is often the singer who is the most identifiable member of a band. That being said, FMTM have skillfully incorporated vocal samples of activists and leaders such as Mario Savio, Che Guevara, and Black Panther Fred Hampton. However, this makes them much more than “the instrumental band with samples.”
What moves me the most about this record may be something I’m completely wrong about, not knowing the intentions and motivations of the band members personally. And although — out of respect for the band — I posted a track (“Beyond God & Elvis”) that can be heard at their MySpace page, I really wanted to post the 9-minute epic “An Ounce of Prevention,” which is arguably the best song the band has ever written and encapsulates my point. With nearly half of the 8 tracks clocking in over 6 minutes, the trio manage to navigate the myriad musical changes not like a jam band or an orchestra, but more like a DJ, seamlessly mixing melodies from one movement to another. They show skillful restraint with the samples, electronics and occasional strings; this is a proud rock record that will unmistakably get the post-rock tag simply because of its lack of vocals. It’s the musical admission however — that their rock is informed by other styles — that makes them more than just the sonic hybrid of The Six Parts Seven and Pelican. Instead, what Shadow did for abstract beats with Entroducing, From Monument to Masses accomplishes in spades for instrumental rock with On Little Known Frequencies.
RIYL: Pelican, Red Sparowes, Mogwai, Six Parts Seven, Dysrhythmia, Maserati, Cinemechanica