7.8

Methods Body Returns With the Challenging (And Rewarding) Plural Not Possessive

The Portland duo’s second album brings together free jazz, electronics and improvisation

Music Reviews Methods Body
Methods Body Returns With the Challenging (And Rewarding) Plural Not Possessive

If you can imagine Methods Body’s self-titled debut album – released in the unsettled spring of 2020 via New Amsterdam Records – as a rock-climbing wall, picture it as the kind with upward routes that challenge and confound, but also provide something to grab onto and hold tightly at reasonably distanced points along the way.

The five-part suite on the album’s A side, for example, makes use of the drums-and-electronics duo’s custom tunings, off-kilter polyrhythms and sampled experiments, but these elements usually coalesce into a tangible groove – a flailing groove with ragged edges, but a groove nonetheless. The result sounds like Battles for the free-jazz crowd.

For sophomore effort, Plural Not Possessive, Methods Body has not only reached the difficult section of the rock-climbing wall that tilts inward toward the ceiling, they’ve removed most of the comforting handholds and footholds. That’s not to say keyboardist Luke Wyland and drummer John Niekrasz have made an entirely inscrutable record; they still engage in an exchange of sounds that lives somewhere near a recognizable intersection of experimental jazz, glitchy electronics and collaborative improvisation. But they largely avoid the obvious grooves in favor of more amorphous forms that provide no easy path forward.

This is, of course, the beauty of the album, which features five tracks ranging in length from 22 seconds to just over 15 minutes. (“An opus against the algorithm,” according to the band, in what must be one of the best phrases to emerge from promotional copy this year.) The shortest, “Impedimenta,” is a 25-word spoken piece with no accompaniment, and it would be an act of folly for me to try to interpret its message here.

“Snares,” on the other hand, stretches out beyond nine minutes, during which Wyland and Niekrasz layer restless tones, faded drones and all manner of percussion into a whole that never stops changing shapes until its abrupt end. Next up, “Baphomet” comes closer to settling into a theme – a descending melody that staggers down the high end of the piano – but just as a traditionally structured song starts to come into focus, Methods Body conjures up a bog of clicks, whirrs, whooshes and weird voices that sound like a field recording from the droid repair shop. It is warm and satisfying, but you never quite feel like you’re standing on solid ground.

The back half of Plural Not Possessive consists of two tracks: “Torches,” a piece that recalls the overcast resonance of fellow Northwest ambient artists Loscil and Eluvium, and “Garden,” which ends the album with an 11-minute march toward a gentle maelstrom of sparkling piano runs and stuttering drum beats; a moment of glowing, weightless bliss; and then three minutes of buzzy, pulsing comedown.

That moment in “Garden” – 11 minutes into the 15-minute closing track on a five-track album – is an excellent reminder that in experimental music, like in life, it’s not always about the destination. On Plural Not Possessive, Methods Body focuses on the journey, and the rewards are handsome.

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