The NYC-based group Horse Torso mash up math rock and free jazz with a driving post-hardcore sense of melody on their excitingly wild new album, Mikropianist.
The opening track, “I Was Murdered,” poignantly establishes the album’s tone via splashes of off-kilter riffing that intermingle with erratic drum rhythms. On the follow-up track, “This Guy…This is Not My Kind of Guy,” the group gets into territory that’s a bit more jazzy. The sweltering, lumbering bassline occupies a prominent position in the song, and the guitar riffing and drum rhythms skip along with free-flowing freedom, as if tumbling down a flight of stairs but somehow having a good time in the process, as if you’ve become resigned to your fate of some kind of endless metaphysical somersault.
On the next track, the band’s dynamic swings get more unsettled and ominous, and the unpredictable volley of sound feels something like a soundtrack for sneaking through a trash-strewn city alley late at night. Among other sonic highlights, a similarly uneasy vibe reappears on “The Hate Paradox,” which features steadily intensifying, plucked melodies amidst a vibrant volley of sound.
“All Liz Phair in Love and Gwar” feels like one of the most jarring songs on Mikropianist. The twanging guitar rhythms flail across the propulsive song alongside similarly agile yet angular drum rhythms. A thumping bassline appears towards the end and connects into the next track, “UUHH.”
Despite the total unpredictability of the band’s song constructions, there’s always a strangely inviting breathability in the music. The songs never really sound oppressive or unknowable. Horse Torso sound totally zany — and simultaneously remarkably accessible. The riff ideas that are scattered across Mikropianist feel poignant, as if the band have tied their off-the-wall song constructions to sincere and striking emotional states.
Listening through the album feels like grappling with a dreamscape, or the real world version of it in the form of trains of thought that have fallen off the tracks. Unpredictable song titles help with establishing this mood, since there are no lyrics on the record, but the music charts the path all on its own. Mikropianist sounds like an emotionally resonant confrontation with mental chaos, and it’s invigorating to dive in as freely as Horse Torso have done on their new record. Listening to the album feels like taking a train ride through a town where reality looks like it’s melting while a math rock and jazz band play in the background.
Listen to Mikropianist below!