What it is is a fresh, invigorating and thoroughly enjoyable example of a genre that can so easily feel alienating and overly complicated. That in itself is a great achievement
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Often acts performing within such off-kilter genre circles as math-rock can struggle with sounding too complicated, or too inaccessible. With their latest album ‘Cubic’, Japanese instrumental math-rockers LITE manage by and large to avoid these pitfalls, succeeding in being simultaneously a fun listen and an intriguingly complex one.
Unlike previous releases, there’s something in LITE’s fifth full-length that feels almost like a tightening of scope. Where breakthrough album ‘For All the Innocence’ was at points grandly cinematic, ‘Cubic’ maintains a straightforward slickness of vision. This is math rock at its most mathematical – which likely explains the album’s title.
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This might sound like a bad thing; there are enough musicians out there whose playing, while technically proficient, lacks passion. ‘Cubic’ has no such issue. While the songs have less emotional grandeur than previous efforts, this only leaves room for LITE to venture further down other avenues. This is by far their funkiest effort, managing to fight through characteristic rhythmic complexity to find the groove amidst the chaos. This is due in no small part to the excellent drumming of Akinori Yamamoto, who seems to know inherently when to settle into a consistent nod-along and when to pull the dance mat out from under you.
The whole band knit sections together seamlessly. Each instrument follows its own path, its own melody and seemingly its own tempo, yet when layered together the members of LITE manage to produce something far beyond the sum of its parts. That the band can make music of such complexity with such orchestral precision testifies to their sheer skill as musicians.
Although less emotionally impactful than its predecessors, ‘Cubic’ still maintains a high level of evocativeness. Much like fellow Japanese math-rockers and Topshelf Records labelmates Toe, LITE have always managed to communicate a delicate sense of melancholy through the busyness of their sound. With ‘Cubic’, however, they also succeed in developing moments of unbridled, giddy joy. At certain points, tracks like ‘Warp’ and ‘Balloon’ practically burst (sorry) with the kind of cheer that you can’t help but bounce along with. It’s at these moments that a funk influence feels strongest; rich with muted jazz chords and infectious rhythm; it’s a very fun album.
What LITE have produced with ‘Cubic’ is a complex amalgamation not only of a variety of outside influences but of their own back catalogue. As instrumental math-rock goes it’s not necessarily revolutionary, but nor is it a rehash. What it is is a fresh, invigorating and thoroughly enjoyable example of a genre that can so easily feel alienating and overly complicated. That in itself is a great achievement.