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The Mae-Shi / Rapider Than Horsepower - Don't Ignore The Potential

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Artist: The Mae-Shi / Rapider Than Horsepower

Album: Don't Ignore The Potential

Label: Strictly Amateur Films

Review date: May. 14, 2006

It took some effort to meet the Mae Shi at their level. They’re not the most accessible band, and their ability to grate in certain situations is somewhat beyond reproach, but seeing them pull off their act in the live setting – nearly an hour of mind-scrambling noise/hardcore/pop glom, deftly executed and navigated maze-like through a series of hand gestures – put everything into perspective. Here is a rock band that weaves its parts together like free improvisers or members of a chamber group, that omnivorously rolls across genres, moods, levels of energy and spirit, in the end producing something resembling a giant ball of rubber bands, right down to the bounce. Deconstructing the dozens of parts to one of their typical songs would drive a person mad, but it’s far easier to stand there, slackjawed, at the Rube Goldberg-esque construction of the piece, and the precision it took to get it off the ground. Just enough of a taste of things is provided on Don’t Ignore the Potential, a new split release with the group Rapider than Horsepower.

Technology is the glue that seems to hold the Mae Shi together, be it raspy synth bleeps or sampling and recutting of a drum line. What technology doesn’t cover, vocals do; the band chirps and barks in some manner of nerd patois that suits them well; their main vocalist Ezra cuts a little close to Craig Finn acquired-taste territory at times. But once this band starts to make sense, it all makes sense – repetition of the bland (the address and bus route to “Nickel Arcade”) and the critical (New York hipsters bodyslammed in “Massively Overwrought”) with the whisperingly esoteric (“Remarkably Dirty Animals”) are all carried through with such breathless urgency that it all feels as crucial as a death threat. The band’s musical ADD flips, scrapes, harmonizes, jars, cuts and pastes. This is a new music and the band is trying to feel it out, but just about everything is up for grabs. Traces of genre are falling out of their music with each release, and though the songs here lean towards pop, it’s not for the lack of trying to subvert what pop means; jimmylegging kick drum pedals and effects pedals alike, their franticness has taken one hell of a shape (witness their recent DVD, Lock the Skull, Load the Gun for examples of this taken to the poles).

From the 11 songs contributed by Rapider than Horsepower, a Bloomington band featuring members of Racebannon, nothing is more apparent than hero worship of the Mae Shi. The group even has a song called “Split LP w/ The Mae Shi,” as if we weren’t sure that this is what we were listening to. Sadly, the group’s devotion does not yet translate to the challenge of holding one’s own against the band in question; they seem to occupy the same harried space, but their songs rotate around simpler themes, and less of them, too. Compositionally, they don’t even meet the Mae Shi halfway. There’s too much of them here, and their dizzying pound becomes mushy and worn out by the end of their portion (significantly longer than the Mae Shi’s side as well, making things even more awkward). A typical Faith/Void split situation, it’s pretty clear which side you won’t want to return to.

By Doug Mosurock

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