Melkbelly’s second album PITH is a freight train of lo-fi noise rock. The Chicago-based quartet’s latest offering is more sophisticated yet still as heavy. Laying down the tracks is drummer James Wetzel with his relentless pace, amplified by the thick grunge guitars of Bart Winters and bassist Liam Winters. At its emotional core however, is Miranda Winters’ delicate voice, which sharply moves between calmness and scorn, cutting through all the overdrive. Her lyrics are filled with astute yet graphic poetry, a stark contrast to the raucous nature of the instruments that accompany her.
The opener “THC” is an anxiety-inducing romp that ramps up in intensity as the song goes on. Miranda’s subdued vocal parts are interlaced with the paranoia of roaring drums. The bridge ends in a full blown panic attack. If reggae music’s calmness comes from weed, then this song is at the other end of that spectrum. “Sickeningly Teeth” plays around with tempo, evoking a feeling of unease. The speed rises and falls almost haphazardly, like treading through unstable ground, walking through thin ice or the nuisance having something lodged in your teeth.
Miranda’s pop sensibilities shine through with “Little Bug” and “Humid Heart”. In the former she sings about being alone with nothing but a moth for companionship. The irony is palpable as she reflects on her loneliness while at the same time being annoyed by the bug that won’t leave her alone.
The album’s centerpiece “Kissing Under Some Bats” is the standout track clocking in at seven-and-a-half minutes. It starts as a surf-rock rumble with Miranda’s voice sliding in and stabbing through the cracks of heavy fuzz. It ends with a five minute breakdown that starts as a one-chord pounding, and eventually develops into the noisiest guided meditation you’ll ever come across. Make sure to watch your breath as you’ll be phasing through a concrete wall of sound.
“Season of the Goose” despite its thick layer of sounds, has a catchy interplay of riffs between guitar and vocals. Carried by a snappy snare vibe that drives it to full gallop. “Mr. Coda” is the thesis of PITH compacted into three minutes. The rhythm changes and slabs of thick noise are joined by synth elements. The gritty bass takes the stage as the central core of the track that every other sound gravitates around. The closing song “Flatness” is a coda that brings it all down to earth, showcasing Miranda’s voice at her finest. She sings about discomforting themes in her struggle to find ‘the shape of flatness’.
Melkbelly’s experimental approach is at its core an exploration of what they are capable of. Their sound can be summed up into three elements: extremely loud, extremely fast and extremely versatile. It’s fun to see how they stretch these muscles with each track. Some experiments might come out with a bang or a bust, but with so many ideas packed in at 40 minutes, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
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