Even if it’s temporarily hidden, there’s often a personal locus of unrest within broader experiences of turmoil, and that’s where the Oklahoma City-based post-rock/ math rock crew Speak, Memory focus on their compelling new three-track EP Adirondack, which features a little over fifteen minutes of music.
Although math rock and post-rock often seem associated with contemplative vibes, Speak, Memory frequently perform at a somewhat brisker pace than one might expect across Adirondack, and the journey feels entrancing. The energy suggests passion — an urgent expression of longing, drenched in strong feeling. Although lyrics only appear on one track from the record (“Lakes”), the simmering sonic intensity is fitting, since the band share that they’re thematically exploring the emotional fallout of “unrequited love” throughout the new release.
Although they’ve got a light touch, Speak, Memory sound crisply forceful for the entirety of Adirondack, rolling out captivating dynamic turns leading up a sudden burst into a lushly full — yet still impactful — sound towards the end of EP closer “Cabin.” The track features rhythmic tension, yet the band’s overall forward push suggests an experience of catharsis, as though finally expressing (in some form) inward feelings that had previously been kept quiet.
The mix is adeptly weighty, so it’s not as though there’s a total disconnection from the tension that unfolded before, but there’s nevertheless something like welcoming acceptance of the liveliness of the journey. The central sonic ideas that drive this record are moving — the melodies evoke a feeling like looking out across a teeming, wildflower-filled field at sunrise.
Outside of isolated moments including that ending cascade of sound and a burst of high energy on EP opener “Trails,” Adirondack often features a sort of gingerly thinner mix with ample space to really feel the impact of the heavy emotions, but with consistently vivacious tones from the guitars and other instrumentation, there’s still an often-present sense of shimmering atmosphere. The EP is dynamically intricate, suggesting a teeming outdoors environment, but it remains relatively accessible rather than particularly unwieldy, as though chronicling a moment of solitary self-reflection within those surroundings.
Between the rhythmic intricacy and the shifts between more expansive atmosphere and more math rock-inclined unease, Speak, Memory sound like they’re musically expressing an experience of trying — and failing — to tamp down intense inner emotion. The reality of that emotion’s presence hangs like the blanket of color across the sky in the mountain scene depicted on the record’s cover art. It’s bright, yet inescapably formidable.
“Trails” ends with a segment that aptly captures that idea, featuring a quickly moving cascade of intricate and lightly downtrodden performances, and the swiftly developing display of musical beauty is enamoring. “Lakes,” meanwhile, begins on a particularly brisk and directly propulsive note, with prominent percussion sending the track galloping along. “Cabin” returns to a mellower vibe for part of its runtime, but the adept melodic shifts ensure that there’s always a sense of promising potential embedded within the journey, like seeing sunlight begin to steadily stream over the horizon.
Adirondack by Speak, Memory is available now via Clerestory AV.