CHEW, Small Joys Gang, HMPH! @ Californos

If you missed CHEW this summer at Mills Record Company, you have another opportunity to catch them play. This Friday at Californos, the Atlanta based band will take the stage with fellow experimentalists Small Joys Gang and HMPH!. Each band uses instrumental songs to create ever-shifting tapestries of sound. Moving from grungy post-rock to noisy math rock, from jazzy progressions to progressive dissonance, these three bands do amazing things with sound.

One of those amazing things is structuring songs that build tension as they flow through their parts. Small Joys Gang has mastered this. The band’s songs develop with the same climactic energy of Explosions in The Sky or This Will Destroy You. But whereas those bands piece together scraps of drone, Small Joys Gang uses jangling leads and distorted rhythms to create massively building tracks. Somehow, the band manages a mathy feel without constantly shifting through time signatures and key changes. The result is an aesthetic that enchants at both the micro and macro levels. Small Joys Gang collides grunge and post-rock to create a feel that is unlike any of their main influences.

CHEW, aside from having some of the best cover art, makes doom-inspired jazz rock. Heavy riffs layer over nefarious leads and throbbing drums–giving their songs the perfect mix of turgid metal and swiftfooted math rock. Bouncing between minimal builds and bursts of sonic chaos, CHEW performs some of the most energetic and intense music being made, and their stage presence matches their sound. Flying across the whole kit, jumping across the stage, and rocking through riffs, CHEW’s stage show has enough energy to revive the dead. That said, the band stays true to the meat of their songs–never sacrificing complexity for the sake of movement. The intersection of these two qualities makes for a sound that is best on stage.

HMPH! is the musical equivalent of mischief. The Kansas City trio creates and discards riffs with a childlike abandon–allowing their music to try on several feels within the same moment. Their Haymaker debut, Headrush, is a kaleidoscopic take on math rock. It blasts through its songs with such energy that it doesn’t matter if a part here and there feels discordant. HMPH! is a band of small adjustments, moving a time signature a bit, altering a riff, giving and letting go of leads. This not only lends their album a progressive feel but adds a small arc to their performance. Watching HMPH! play is like watching a photograph develop. Over the course of their set, the band moves through their math rock to create an experience unlike any other by its conclusion.

Whether you’re a fan of doomy jazz, jittering discordance, or grungy post-rock, Friday at Californos will have something for you. And if you’re not, listen to CHEW, HMPH!, and Small Joys Gang, think about your life choices, then go see these amazing bands take the stage–you’ll be glad you did, I promise.

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