Album #182: Lithics – Tower of Age

  • Released: 2020
  • Origin: Portland, Oregon, USA
  • Label: Trouble in Mind
  • Best Track: Hands

Lithics released one of my favourite albums of 2018 in Mating Surfaces. It had somehow escaped my attention that they released their third album last month.

I don’t know if you’d say the band’s sound is that original, but it’s certainly distinctive and unique. It’s somehow both minimalist and complex, with the spiky, completely dissonant guitars repetitive and raw, and timing and synergy a key factor. Not unlike Captain Beefheart, it often seems like an exercise in eking some sort of melody out of all the jumbled entrails.

A lot of songs on Mating Surfaces were driving post-punk and were pretty catchy, like ‘Excuse Generator’, ‘Specs’ and ‘Glass of Water’, but you also had tracks like ‘Boyce’, a gloriously offbeat, irregular din that bounced and jarred on for over five minutes. That sense of experimentation appears to be celebrated further on Tower of Age, which is Lithics at their abstract best.

Some tracks, like opener ‘Non’, ‘A Highly Textured Ceiling’ and closer ‘Cricket Song Through Open Window’ are short bursts of unrefined noise, almost sounding like they’re not being played on conventional instruments, a la Einsturzende Neubautern. Elsewhere, tracks like ‘Hands’ cycle around these shrill riffs (I always consider ‘Poptones’ by Public Image Ltd. the blueprint for this sort of sound) for a couple of minutes before cranking the volume up to chaotic levels.

Vocalist Aubrey Hornor’s delivery retains a deadpan, almost sarcastic lilt, although surprisingly in a record that’s taken a turn for the unconventional, there are moments on ‘An Island’ and ‘Mice in the Night’ where she is definitely singing rather than putting out her usual spoken word.

Many listeners will dismiss this as an unlistenable racket. They don’t get it. This is edgy, exciting, and technically very well put together and performed. A criminally underappreciated band.

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