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#Math Rock

Monday, February 25, 2013

by Julia Webster


Math rock is a genre of music that came around in the last 90’s and is attributed to weird time signatures and rhythmically complex styles. It’s usually more guitar-based music like traditional rock and was influenced by progressive rock bands and minimalist composers.

For those of you who aren’t musically inclined, a time signature is a notation that specifies how many beats are in each measure. So if you imagine sheet music, at the beginning of the score, there is the crazy curly symbol called the treble clef and next to it are two numbers sitting on top of each other. Traditionally, it’s 4/4, meaning that every section, separated by vertical bars called “barlines”, contains 4 beats. This is called “common time”. And if I’m not describing it well enough, I found a sample of these beats right here.

Math rock generally uses weirder time signatures that don’t sound as fluid. This is an example of 19/16 which is seen as “rhythmic complexity” which is where the name “math rock” stems.

Math rock generally sounds like traditional rock with guitars and drums and because of the weird time signatures, drummers in this genre generally stand out more than in other genres. Loop pedals are used sometimes like in the band Battles. There isn’t a huge concentration on lyrics in math rock. Voices are used as just another sound in the mix or aren’t used at all, like Don Caballero.

The term itself has been considered a joke and eventually developed into a real music scene during the “second wave”. Bands in this genre come from all over including Australia, Canada, Europe, particularly France, the most famous being Chevreuil, Japan, Turkey and of course, the US.

Math rock can be divided in to two periods. The first wave was in the early 90’s where the pioneer could be considered Slint. This first wave had a more heavy noise-rock sound coming from the same pool of music as early post-rock. The genre died after bands associated with the genre denied the name.

The second wave came in the late 2000’s when the sound cleaned up a little bit and became less noisy but still held onto that complexity. With that, bands like Maps & Atlases and Giraffes? Giraffes! became popular in the scene. But now, bands like Battles are also considered math rock and I’ve even found a few tracks that incorporate some electronic sounds, which I always enjoy.

Playlist for February 25, 2013

GIRAFFES? GIRAFFES! // Scorpion Bowls at the Hong Kong

Don Caballero // For Respect

Battles // Atlas

Holy Fuck // The Pulse

Hella // Friends Don’t Let Friends Win

Chevreuil // Tonnerre Mécanique

Jardín de la Croix // Colorado Springs

Adebisi Shank // Colin Skehan

Castleton // Leaving This World

Slint // Breadcrumb Trail

Maps & Atlasses // The Most Trustworthy Tin Cans

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