Being able to tell where a band is from on the basis of what they sound like is not totally out of the ordinary – but when it’s an instrumental band it’s a bit of a surprise. With that in mind, Hey!Tonal sound like an experimental indie rock band from Chicago. They’re not an old band though; they’re an ‘ex-members of band’. In fact, looking at their line up, they’re almost a supergroup. Comprising of members from (deep breath) Storm & Stress, Sweep The Leg Johnny, Maps & Atlases, Joan Of Arc, ZZZZ’s, Rumah Sakit and Pinback plus many more, Hey!Tonal are an exercise in experimental recording.
Rather than recording and writing in the conventional way, Hey!Tonal constructed their songs piece by piece. Drums were recorded and then edited into song structures, before each additional instrument was added, all the while being constantly manipulated and re-edited in the studio. Producing a dense, layered record, Hey!Tonal only really revels itself after repeated listens. Parts that at first sounded like a mess of noise suddenly give way to hidden melodies and snatches of vocal appear behind clattering drums. Parts and songs flow into one another; long passages of math rock skronk fade away to be replaced by delicate guitar harmonics. ‘Skitch’ begins as the most abrasive of songs, with a chugging bass riff being paired with a manipulated drum beat that sounds like a helicopter taking off, before eventually fading into a tapped guitar melody.
Though they make an interesting racket, Hey!Tonal aren’t quite the sum of their separate parts. For every moment that sounds unique and engaging, there’s an opposite moment that fails to reach the heights that similar bands such as Joan Of Arc or Don Caballero have reached in the past. Hey!Tonal succeeds as a exercise in recording technique – but as a record, though it doesn’t fail, it certainly doesn’t meet its potential, and at times can come across as a little cluttered and lacking in focus. A good record, but not nearly as good as it could be.
Hey!Tonal on myspace.
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