I've long been drawn to music, art, and literature that's composed with limited palettes. Whether it be Dutch painter Piet Mondrian and his focus on vertical and horizontal lines and only primary colors, American writer Raymond Carver's short stories composed of plainspoken, stripped-down sentences, or Tool's minimalist jams, I find something inherently fascinating out of someone creating so much out of so little.
Abest's post-hardcore and sludge mix appeals to that part of me. As on their demo, Abest works with just a few sounds on their full length, Asylum. You get bass, drums, chiming clean guitars mixed with distorted riffing, and those meaty, hardcore bellows. The tone of those don't vary much, but don't mistake limited ingredients for a limited sound. The band might leave out the samples, synths, orchestrations, and other ornamentations, but they still conjure up plenty of variety and emotional power. The title track (probably my favorite) shows the full range of what they can do. The jangling dissonance of the opening moves into a slow-paced stomp, then eventually gives way to a quiet, mournful passage before ramping back up to a grinding riff you'll feel in your teeth. The textures range from delicate to soul-crushing.
The band may be sticking to the basics of what made their demo so enjoyable, but there's also growth. The full-length gives us a more pronounced bass presence that rounds out the sound nicely, and in subtle ways, the music is spookier and more dissonant than the demo tracks. Songs break apart and reform in ways that are unpredictable but utterly satisfying. I have no doubt this will be on my year-end list.
[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]