After a couple of years playing together Derby-based math rock trio a-tota-so are about to deliver their debut LP. In a first piece for Storge Kate Haresnape says the record is more than worth your time.
Featuring members of Alright the Captain and Cheap Jazz, a-tota-so formed in 2016 after the hiatus of both bands. Their self-titled debut consists of nine tracks that were recorded over the winter at Nice Weather for Airstrikes Studios and Snug Recording Co. The album was partly funded by a recent IndieGogo campaign due to their equipment being stolen whilst on tour with Chiyoda Ku and thanks to the generosity of those who helped crowdfund the band, fans of instrumental math rock are in for a treat.
The album effortlessly alternates between driving grooves and airy, atmospheric passages. This is most strongly on display with the opener Black Market Broccoli, which culminates in a tremolo-picked crescendo that abruptly falls away to firm post rock territory. The album has a gritty side too, often highlighted for effect by the cleaner, mathier, or more post rocky riffs. Double Deaf is a great example of this, where the main riff grooves like more recent Swans efforts and sounds all the more ferocious upon its return after the sudden change to a cleaner, mathy sound underpinned by the urgency of the rhythm section.
The musicianship on show is tight, both in the technical sense (double handed tapping, seamless transitions from one time signature to another, etc) and in the sense that the band have a great interplay among themselves. Being a three piece, each instrument has to hold its own – they do, and then some. The bass and the guitar play off each other to create a wider sound one moment, then lock into the same riff like glue the next, supported by tight drumming that adds a sense of urgency to each track. This is evidently the result of a lot of time spent playing together, time which has paid dividends; a-tota-so are a well refined unit.
All in all this is a great first release. There’s a fair amount of variation both in the album’s overall sound and within the tracks themselves, and there’s nothing that sounds quite like it within the math rock genre. Each track is joyful in its own way, whether from the outset or as a crescendo in the midst of a more dreamy or grungy song. Definitely an album to pick up and give a listen (or two), a-tota-so are one to watch within the Derby music scene.
The self-titled album from a-tota-so is released on 17 September and you can find their previous releases on Bandcamp.
Words by Kate Haresnape. Image by IC Things.