Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Minor Forest - So Jesus Was at the Last Supper. . .

So Jesus Was at the Last Supper. . .

This song is from a true forgotten masterpiece, A Minor Forest's Flemish Altruism. Sometimes I let myself fantasize that the world of independent rock bands will rediscover and want to imitate this band and its brilliant balance of visceral punk energy stripped of adolescent rage crossed with sly composition stripped of chamber/prog pretense. And that I'll still be going to shows when that happens.

As much as anything, I love that A Minor Forest rocks lean. Their songs aren't simple and they certainly aren't concise, but every element steps in and makes its statement without flailing sonic excess or unnecessary instrumental duplication. I picked this track less because it's one of my favorites on the album -- I love it, but there are ones I love more -- than because it's such a nice illustration of this leanness, despite running for an almost totally linear fourteen minutes.

It opens with a syncopated 4/4 drum beat soon joined by a dead-simple 3/4 guitar arpeggio and then eventually a teutonic slow bass line. None of the parts would be particularly exciting in isolation, but together they make a lattice* as tight as the math rock analog to the parts of a James Brown tune -- that's a pretty loose comparison, but feel me on the syncopated simple-part combo, if you would.

Another great AMF feature is the drummer (I'm pretty sure it's the drummer) screaming starting at 2:38 while the guitar remains undistorted. Hello? How come no one else ever does that move? Why does it have to be that if one dude is rocking out at 11, all distortion pedals must be on?

Other great features are all the other parts and how much they rock. So about that '90s indie post-punk math-metal revival. . .

*It is hearby acknowledged that I used the metaphor of a lattice earlier in this blog. I think it works well for music I like, so whatever. I'm surely the only person who noticed of the four people who actually read these posts.


  1. Hey Ben! MAP here. So happy to discover we share the AMF love! We have lots of disagreements about music, but I'm a HUGE HUGE AMF fan. So overlooked. I first heard them back around 1996 at the college radio station when I was a freshman where some uber-hipster guy was playing some 10+ minute piece on his show and he told me something like "to me, this is prog rock" because I was known as a "prog head" at the time. A few years I got the Flemish Altriusm disc and really fell in love. Then Inindependence came out and I totally locked into it too. Over the years my appreciation for those discs has grown exponentially, to the point where it's one of the really deep, sacred listening experiences for me. I went into the AMF zone as recent as sometime last year I think. I love the way the drumkit sounds have so much space around them and such understated rhythms. I feel like I'm savoring every cymbal hit in the uncluttered texture. AMF is pure rock poetry right up there with Velvet Underground. I pretty much love everything about AMF, those 90s "post-hardcore" climaxes included. That two disc post-mortem collection has great stuff too.

  2. Nice! Thanks, Mike. Total agreement here. For me, historically, I heard this band first a couple years after the height of my listening to June of 44, Slint, Rodan, and other related music. I liked it but for some reason I never owned Flemish Altruism. I have some vague memory of it seeming musically sarcastic or something vis-a-vis Spiderland. I finally picked up a used copy while I was living in the dead-dull suburbs of Tokyo in 2004 and I listened to it every day for a month of so. Each part so right on and purposeful, and yeah uncluttered like you said. Classic Electric Audio recording quality too (both Albini and Weston are credited).

    I never saw them, but Jake (of Little Ocean fame) did and said they set up with the drummer's back to the audience so they could still be in a circle like they (and every other band) are when they practiced. Pretty sweet move.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment. I encourage you to drop as many of those as you want/can on this little creative writing project of mine.

  3. I also loved Rodan! I need to revisit that, and I will listen to June of 44 because I've never heard of them.

  4. Oh weird. June of 44 was Jeff Mueller from Rodan's next band with the bass player from Hoover, the drummer from Rex, and the guitar player from. . . I think he was in Lungfish briefly. Not exactly a supergroup? Maybe a "supragroup," in the traditional of being "underground."

    Anyway, yeah, some good music from that era. Some holds up well still.