MUTINY MUTINY – Constellation

Formed in 2009, Seattle’s Mutiny Mutiny is an art-rock/post rock trio. For an independent release, the production values on their debut album ‘Constellation’ are fantastic, demonstrating a “live in the studio” vibe, which breathes a real sense of energy into the band’s material. The musical structures lean towards the angular and occasionally spawling (although any sprawling tendencies are often more muscular than the works of Slint – of which there is a strong influence throughout this release) and the musicians themselves are well-rounded, with all vocal duties shared. Each of these factors gives ‘Constellation’ a very strong foundation. Each of the eleven tracks show strength and while the band’s sound mightn’t be wholly original, when the material is as good as it often is here (and it is very good indeed), that doesn’t matter so much.

Opening the album is a number which showcases the band’s darkest edge. ‘A Movie Without a Plot’s grinding, oppressive nature borrows a little of its style from Slint, with a key difference that Mutiny Mutiny don’t drag it out over a prolonged duration. If you’re looking for a memorable hook you won’t find one here (not even hiding away, waiting to be discovered on subsequent listens); this is absolutely about maximum attitude and about Jenn Schmidt’s absolutely awesome Melvins-esque bassline, which never gets dull even though it is left to drive the piece with a relative bottom-end simplicity. A definite highlight, ‘Flight’ begins with another great bassline, before the band break a spiky, mid-paced riff, sounding somewhere between ‘Drums and Wires’ era XTC and the works of Robert Pollard. This is intercut with a slower section, with vocal contributions from all three band members. This recurs throughout, but never really sounds like a chorus; the whole piece has a disjointed feeling, yet somehow avoids incoherence.

‘Oil and Water’ is at a faster pace compared to most of the band’s material. A simpler arrangement is key here; when combined with a dual male/female vocal, the all round punchiness is extremely effective. The drumming is tight and the slightly discordant guitar parts have a absolutely fantastic tone. A mid section moves things away from Wedding Present/Fall territory and back towards more familiar Sonic Youth-isms. Naturally, this loses some of the energy and momentum, but even then, Schmidt’s bass sound remains awesome, so the shift isn’t entirely unwarranted. Another upbeat offering, ‘Close of Business’ has a fractured lyric regarding the everyday grind of office work, a one line refrain of “there will always…always be another one” is designed to stick in your head as quickly as possible. Musically, the track is rooted in the post-rock territory once again, this time with a touch of Wire in its delivery. The bass has clean tone and the guitars are at once sharp and distorted, which sounds quirky when used to back what’s often a spoken delivery, while Marc Mazique’s drums wind things up to wonderful levels of tautness.

The title cut alternates between Sonic Youth styled indie rock (featuring a naturalistic vocal from Jason Dean) and a drum-lead chorus, topped by more aggressive shouting. Both aspects work well for the band, especially when linked by slightly distorted guitar lines. There’s a sense this this was created by a welding together of a couple of unfinished ideas, but it works well enough. ‘The Damage Is Done’ brings one of the album’s best hooks, making great use of a repeated sung line pitched against couple of shouted lines; musically, it doesn’t offer much you haven’t heard Mutiny Mutiny deliver previously, but once again, the distorted guitar sounds and naturalistic approach are incredibly enjoyable.

‘Some Fresh Disaster’ begins with an over-driven jangle which,with its denser tone and more rhythmic style, sticks out more than Mutiny Mutiny’s denser approach. While this stays the course, the other elements within this number revert to the rather more typical. Before long Schmidt’s bass puts in a bigger presence and the structure of the music becomes more angular. Of greatest interest, though, is the song’s coda which captures the trio singing in a three-part harmony, as opposed to their preferred “singing over each other” approach. It’s one of the album’s most melodic moments, and the sound of those voices is just as welcome as the arty, grinding stuff.

In the first half of 2011, 90s alternative revivalists Yuck gained a truckload of press (and fairly, since the 90s alternative sound was definitely due a revival), but honestly, Mutiny Mutiny are far more interesting.  In summary, if you like Sonic Youth, Cay, Sleater-Kinney or Slint, you owe it to yourselves to seek out this band. Now.

October 2011