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  • Math Rock

    Math rock is a genre of music that developed in the late 80s and emerged from the experimental rock music scene. Usually characterized by its non-conforming rhythmic structures, the start/stop flow of its motions, and its more often than not angular and conflicting rifts. While most rock music bands will use a very basic 4/4 beat, you will find very often in math rock that bands will use a non uniform time signature, like 7/8 or 13/8 for example, or they will also often use constantly changing signature based on different groupings of 2 and 3, which was seen as mathematical in its complexity by many fans and critics, and this is how the genre got it’s name.

    While changing time signatures during a song is nothing quite new, considering it has been practiced as far back as the 15th century, math rock is the only genre to have ever put an emphasis on playing as such, and applied this principle to the rock music style. The genre takes a lot of influence from many scenes, such as rock, progressive rock, heavy metal, and punk rock. Lyrics though, unlike many other genres, are not a main focus in math rock, and some math rock bands are entirely instrumental, 65daysofstatic and Don Caballero being prime examples of this.

    There were many bands from the 60s and 70s who experimented with different and even unusual structures and meters, such as The Beatles, Captain Beefheart, Genesis, Rush, Pink Floyd, Henry Cow, to name a few. These bands were of great influence to the math rock scene and directly contributed to its emergence. The 90s saw Chicago become a central point for the math rock progression, as many cities around the Midwestern United States were also concentration points for the genre. Bands like Bastro, Cheer-Accident, Breadwinner, Table, Shellac, U.S. Maple, Craw, Keelhaul, Colossamite and Dazzling Killmen were highly popular bands of this period, and all of them originated in the Midwest in varying cities, such as Chicago Illinois, Cleveland Ohio, and St. Louis Missouri, for example. Pittsburgh was home to the instrumental band Don Caballero, which is named one of the biggest defining examples of the genre.

    A four-piece band consisting of two guitars, drums, and a bass guitar, the band rejects the math rock label applied to them, but they are undeniably a huge influence on the genre. Other bands from the area include Jumbo, Six Horse, Blunderbass, and Shale. San Diego California had a fair share of math rock bands, like Drive Like Jehu, Antioch Arrow, Clikitat Ikatowi, Heavy Vegetable, and Tristeza. Japan even has a few groups in the math rock scene, or acts the blend elements from math rock into their music. Zeni Geva and Ruins are heavily math rock bands, while acts like Té, Lite, Zazen Boys, and Toe are examples of popular bands that have incorporated various styles of the genre into their own music. Bands in the D.C. area include Shudder to Think, 1.6 Band, Faraquet, Autoclave, Circus Lupus and Jawbox along with a few others whom contributed to the math rock scene.

    Louisville’s band Slint created a movement in their hometown, bands followed their lead and picked up elements of the math rock scene or simply became a part of the genre entirely, acts include Rodan, June of 44, Shipping News, Roadside Monument, Bitch Magnet, The For Carnation, Sonora Pine, and Crain, to name a few.  When the turn of the 21st century hit, most of the older bands like Sweep the Leg Johnny and Thumbnail had broken up, many others had rejected the “math rock label” that had been used to describe their music. But influences from the genre are clear and present in many different genres today, notably the indie rock and avant-garde scenes.

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