Lithics’ style of post-punk is serrated and bizarre in its imaginings. It may sound chaotic at first listen, but the creative use of negative space and careful arrangement of each sonic element suggests the exact opposite. Every screeching riff and rhythmic jab is intentional and controlled. There’s a constant call and response of guitars, as if two Star Wars droids are flinging insults at each other. It probably isn’t conjecture to say that their latest full length “Tower of Age”, was conjured in a laboratory of mad scientists, where every experiment is laid out with the express goal of taking this jagged style of punk and stretching it to its limits.
From the opening “Non”, with its atonal guitars and erratic drums weaving perpendicularly in a stop-and-go motion, almost like they’re being directed by a traffic signal in full seizure. These elements seem to be moving haphazardly in isolation, but together they form a wildly danceable concoction. In single “Hands”, Bob Desaulniers’ bass lays down a solid arena while Aubrey Hornor and guitarist Mason Crumley commence in a hectic six-string argument. Wiley Hickson’s drums watches in a drone beat at first but lashes out to join in during the breakdown sections.
Moments of noise and chaos may spring out constantly throughout these 13 punchy tracks but it’s a result of a collective effort where every instrument has a clear and distinct place in the mix, inviting the listener’s attention in a tug of war of countermelodies. Aubrey Hornor’s vocal is the cherry on top, with smart lyrics and jabbing appearances that share equal time with the others. A craggy eggshell that completes the puzzle that is Lithics’ artful songwriting.
These mosaics may be a tough sell for general public consumption, but these are undeniably the sort of ideas that push a medium forward. In “Twisting Vine”, the guitars and bass move in a steady creeping motion, like angular lines slowly clawing their way to reach the other side of a wall. In “The Symptom” the whole soundscape transforms into a industrial complex of dark and eerie noises, claustrophobic and dissonant, like the interior of a torture chamber or a dissection table. The exasperated bass pulses like a heartbeat in elevating panic, while Hornor’s voice looms like an ominous figure.
Lithics’ experiments in sounds and structures makes Tower Of Age a compelling listen. A clear improvement can be seen in their production and songwriting, with even tighter and succinct arrangements from their previous release, Mating Surfaces. With this latest offering Lithics manages to cobble a rich and highly detailed world using minimal sonic pieces to great effect.