Boomkat Product Review:
Minnesota three-piece Maths Balance Volumes continue to dumbfound with this extraordinarily eccentric new set, collaging Smithsonian Folkways scratchiness, Broadcast-level hauntology and free folk anarchy into tattered experiments that usher us towards a parallel history. Brilliant, viscerally affecting gear; RIYL Heather Leigh, Islaja, Steven R. Smith, Graham Lambkin or Voice Actor.
Back in 2020, Maths Balance Volumes summarized a turbulent time with 'A Year Closer', an album that was, on the surface, folk music, but managed to reach across a far wider sonic spectrum, floating confidently in and out of abstraction. 'Cycles of Tonight' picks up where its predecessor left off, fleshing its skeletal Americana with hallucinatory bursts of noise, damaged environmental recordings and free-flowing psychedelia. Opener 'Stay' initially sounds as if it could have fallen from any number of Death Is Not The End's ear-opening historical anthologies, but peer closer and there's something more artificial, or intentional, about the band's use of folk tropes. A fiddle drones away over percussive creaks that form a rhythm and detuned guitar plucks, before a whisper-quiet voice duets with itself as if nobody's listening in.
'Janet's Song' continues the thought, but breathes an exotic sensibility into the mix, sounding like Broadcast's most lysergic sketches. Led again by a whimsical vocal, the track's accompanied by ferric guitar strums and an undulating melody that comes across like woodwind that's been so warped and overdubbed all that's left is a haunted moan. The trio use humble instruments - like the tinny, wheezing electronic organ on 'Thursday Afternoon' - but not as a flex, this modest sonic fingerprint gives them more room to breathe creatively, allowing them to spotlight the sounds in-between, like pebbles being tossed into a pond. And the texture of each element is just as important as its representation; 'Egyptian Wedding' hovers like a dense fog, with asphyxiated instrumental gasps only just masking tape noise and rusty, industrial croaks. When the vocal appears, it may as well be a cappella, sung into the Minnesota wilderness. "Thursday afternoon, I saw the one I love again," a voice calls out candidly, as if echoing from a well.
Somehow, the record descends ever-deeper as it develops. A militaristic thump pokes its head above crunchy, tape-mangled detritus on 'A Dream of You', and 'Yellow for Doddie' sounds like a brassy fanfare submerged in a tin bathtub, accompanied by disembodied whistles and lopsided, Lynchian vocals. The band's use of vocals is striking throughout; sometimes sung, sometimes spoken, they remind us of what we sound like without pitch-correction or a magazine of effects. And as 'I'll Know You' sputters to a close, two voices dance between eachothers groggy delivery, weaving in-and-out and creating colloquial theater in the process.