Dianogah: Qhnnnl

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Something new (again) from an old favorite

You really can rely on Dianogah. Besides the obvious sturdiness of the bass-bass-drums lineup and an established tradition of pushing the envelope of post-rock, the very fact that the band will pull something new out of its formidable hat every time out has become more or less an expectation. This time around, on fourth full-length Qhnnnl, it’s a newfound attitude towards the heavily layered, melodic drive that’s defined the band for the bulk of its 13-year career. Dianogah’s usual propensity towards oscillating rhythms and challenging composition has given way to playful experimentation with vocals and additional instrumentation.

Rather than yelping over intricate, would-be instrumentals as he has in the past, Jay Ryan uses his voice as another sparse, carefully calculated layer on the sometimes-flowing, sometimes-jarring 5/4 clomp of album opener “Oneone.” Vocalist Stephanie Morris (Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, The Pawners’ Society) lends her pretty coo to a duet with Ryan on “A Breaks B” and takes lead vocal duties on the plucky, almost poppy bounce of “Sprinter.”  Guest instrumentalist and diminutive indie rock badass Andrew Bird adds lush, dynamic violin to “A Breaks B” and adds a few echoing strains of his famous whistle to the pillowy bed of strings that propels “Andrew Jackson” past lovely to transcendent.

Speaking of transcendent, Dianogah fans may have come to expect the unexpected from these post-rock trailblazers but the band has yet to grow complacent in its own curiosity about the limits of rock music. Qhnnnl is another chapter in the group’s library of musical theory: That theory is for those who need parameters, and Dianogah needs only to know where they are so it can push past them.

(Qhnnnl is out September 9th on Southern Records.)

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