Menimals – s/t
Few bands in the Menimals’ admittedly small company have the good sense to balance their artier inclinations with still producing comprehensible work. It behooves any musician looking to sell their hard work that they offer a little of the sweet with the sour because, typically, most listeners don’t crave aural punishment or broadening their horizons via the pop song. While there’s no question the Menimals don’t always obey this practically golden rule of modern music, many of the songs on their self-titled debut make concrete efforts towards balances their various influences. Their darker, much more experimental side gleefully eschews any sweetening in favor of smothering the listener with sound. This isn’t entirely unwelcome for some and, regardless, strikes a jarring contrast with the band’s obvious melodic gifts.
An initial listen to the album wouldn’t immediately convince someone that the album’s five songs boast any melodic qualities at all. They are present from the beginning, however. The eastern flourishes of “In this Unforgiving Heat” might not strike a chord with some western listeners, but the Menimals frame of reference isn’t regional. The album shows its strongest melodic colors on the following songs, “Dodecahedron” and “Tetrahedron”, particularly the latter. The former is a languid balance of ambient and fragmented, sometimes dissonant, guitar lines with a surprisingly sensitive vocal. The latter, however, veers much deeper into the rock spectrum and achieves most of its effect from a relentlessly effective escalation from a quiet opening to the album’s most raucous, disorienting conclusion.
Their skills at invoking claustrophobia in a listener excel on the track “Transition from a Cube to the Octahedron”. While the song makes token gestures towards a conventional musical approach, its primary impetus seems to be devouring the listener. Wave after wave of ambient wash hits the ear propelled at an almost glacial pace and its gloomy inevitability helps make it the album’s best song. The Menimals end their debut with the song “Bird on the Wing as a Hinge”. It’s the album’s second longest track, only running just a little shorter than its predecessor, but fortunately ends the album on a nominally lighter note rather than finishing whatever the prior track left behind. It’s one of the album’s best features that there’s a gathering intensity as its progresses and the last song is a stunning release of any remaining tension.
This is one of the year’s oddest, but ultimately satisfying, debuts. The Menimals’ money making potential isn’t huge, but who cares? This is clearly art for art’s sake and as a sonic work intended to invoke a response from the listener, it succeeds quite well. The five tracks might sound remarkably similar to some, but careful listening reveals an assortment of nuances not readily apparent on a first listening. Kudos to the Menimals – this is one you’ll remember.
9 out of 10 stars.