Noise rock, as a genre, provides a home for a cadre of secretly virtuoso musicians. The focus isn’t on shredding and pyrotechnic playing as much as maneuvering through strange time signatures and a thorough command of instrumental sounds and textures, and perhaps that is why these musicians are not widely recognized. This is certainly the case with Baltimore-based trio Multicult. Consisting of Nick Skrobisz of The Wayward on guitar and vocals, Rebecca Burchette (ex-Fight Amp) on bass, and Jake Cregger of Triac and Backslider on drums, the trio bring a wealth of talent and experience to bear on their fifth full-length, Simultaneity Now, due out August 2 via Learning Curve Records.

The trio’s modus operandi is immediately apparent on album opener “Caterwaul.” Sonically, there is a minimalist-driven harshness akin to the mighty Big Black, but the rhythmic layers here are much more complex. Cregger attacks and dissects a 3/4 beat, infusing it with unpredictability. Meanwhile, Skrobisz seems to cover the entire length of the guitar’s fretboard, washing the rhythm section over in sound. This is followed by the songs “Torsion” and “ISO,” each more rhythmically confounding than the last. Yet everything is anchored by Burchette’s bass work, while Skrobisz’s guitar and vocals provide mountains of texture riding on top. “ISO” is particularly fascinating when the guitar interjects itself between beats with stabs of almost jazzy chords.

Other highlights include “High Contrast Image Arena” and “Simultaneity,” both of which display a sense of patience, where the attack is scaled back in favor of brooding tension, perhaps hinting at times a Craw influence. On a related note, it is also worth noting on the more immediate songs, Multicult has a talent for smaller shifts in dynamics, almost a sense of moving back and forth from “slightly louder” to “slightly softer,” an expert songwriting trick that doesn’t require the group to make really obvious moves in order to display their sense of control.

Simultaneity Now revels in a freedom of constraints, the tight rhythmic contortions and trio format allowing each member to stretch out within otherwise tight parameters.  The rock-solid foundation provided by Cregger and Burchette allows Skrobisz the latitude to approach the material with a certain looseness. Both his vocals and guitar work move unpredictably, always incorporating one more texture or lick to keep the listener off-balance. And Cregger’s drumming strikes such a perfect balance between complexity and muscularity, without ever really resorting to drum fills, his drumming is nevertheless extremely detailed and expressive. Yet, it is often Burchette’s bass that seems to be the focus of most the songs. She fulfills the bassist’s true function, facilitating the alchemical marriage of the rest of the band moving around her.  The effect is equal parts heady and visceral, despite the flurry time signatures and tempo manipulations, the sheer physicality of the material is always front and center.

As mentioned before, there is a history of top-notch musicianship hiding out in the noise rock genre. Multicult easily slides into this lineage alongside other such notables as Dazzling Killmen, Shellac and Season to Risk.  It is rarefied area, and just seeing this list of bands might make one wonder why the genre is so underappreciated. Regardless, add Multicult as an act worth seeking out. They provide immediate rewards upon first listen, and more than enough depth to bring the converted back again and again.

Todd Manning

One Comment on “Multicult

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