Reflecting the ever-changing soundscape of Portland, Oregon, experimental duo Mothertapes have thrown all their muses into one giant cauldron and set that stovetop to simmer. As two-thirds of yesteryear avant-pop trio Wax Fingers, guitarist Pete Bosack and drummer Tommy Franzen have endeavored a musical dialogue that centers on Bosack’s strengths in live-looping instrumentation and Franzen’s solid rhythms, resulting in melodic bursts of sonic alchemy and a sound that resonates much louder than the sum of its parts.
On the duo’s self-titled debut, the pair utilizes driving synth atmospherics in tandem with heavy shades of guitar/bass overlap, swathing a chill-wave cool atop already complex melodic interweaving. Opening with the single “Do Make Say”—in perhaps an intentional nod to similarly atmospheric Canadian post-rockers Do Make Say Think—Bosack maestros a confluence of countermelodies, offset pleasingly by his vocals and Franzen’s minimalist beat. It’s a sign of the smorgasbord of sound found throughout the album, and especially throughout the A-side, where Mothertapes’ sunnier side is given room to writhe.
As evidence, “Debt/Bet” finds percussive groove in a bossanova rhythm, which is soon slathered in stuttering synths and Bosack’s pop-pocked cadences. The convergence of so much coming from so little makes nearly every song a journey, exposing the tenets of post-rock’s wanderlust and psych-pop’s expansiveness. “Carrot Stick” dips into the band’s math-rock past, as a peppy verse subsides to allow a descending chord maelstrom time to chop itself into pieces. When they want to be, Mothertapes are some of the more chaotic arbiters of experimental pop currently making music, and they bring to mind the releases of acclaimed experimental crews like Tera Melos or Battles.
Beginning with “Not At All So Much Like,” the B-side submits decidedly spacier flair, more instrumental liberties and variations on the duo’s experimental pop sensibilities. “Beta Bank” plots xylophone accents between impressive delay-effect riffage from Bosack to an otherwise straightforward composition. It’s in songs like this that Bosack and Franzen embrace their otherweirdness without relying quite so much on the technical impositions foisted onto them by way of myriad effects boxes.
Ending the LP by rounding it out with heavier tracks like “War Song” and “12 Step,” Mothertapes make sure they’re not playing too long in any one sandbox. The result sometimes sounds restless, and sometimes like a lot of debut records sound like: a chronological representation of the band’s lifespan up until the moment their first record is released. In either event, though, Mothertapes is well worth repeated listens, and the prospect of a band this daring is a breath of fresh air.