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Dysrhythmia - Barriers & Passages

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Artist: Dysrhythmia

Album: Barriers & Passages

Label: Relapse

Review date: Jun. 15, 2006

Philadelphia’s Dysrhythmia have returned with an excellent follow-up to their Relapse debut. Extremely proficient instrumentalists, the trio has specialized in a kind of improbable fusion of hardcore’s energy, metal’s technique, prog ambitions, and pure noise. Led by guitarist Kevin Hufnagel, the group is rounded out by drummer Jeff Eber and new bassist Colin Marston (also in Infidel? Castro! and Behold…the Arctopus, both in the running for Silliest Band Name). Usually bands that try to do this much end up flopping either because they don’t have the ability or because they don’t know how to balance the ingredients, opting instead for a ho-hum channel surfing approach. Well, this band has the goods, more than ever.

On the one hand, this 36-minute record represents something of a change as the group explores its cosmic, expansive side a bit more. On many occasions, some ambient sea improbably opens up, as vast reverberating arpeggios break out into shimmering bliss (just check the swirling psychedelic drift of “Seal? Breaker? Void”). Yet Dysrhythmia isn’t in danger of losing hesher cred anytime soon; the addition of Marston’s nasty bass (he’s a frightening chops monster, but his tone is wonderfully rough and raw to boot) gives Barriers & Passages a swagger that wasn’t always there on Pretest. Add these to Crimson-fueled prog ambitions and you get a wonderful synthesis of influences.

They dazzle you with the mix right from the start. To wit, “Pulsar” is a brief tweak of noise that opens the disc before the multi-meter changeups of “Appeared at First” slams forward. Veering back and forth between a myriad of ideas in a short timeframe, these tracks somehow don’t sound overburdened by their ideas and they don’t lose anything simply because they whip out the chops. It’s hard to strike a balance between “we’re pretty good musicians” and “our music makes good listening,” but these guys do it. Tracks like “Bypass the Solenoid” (which slays live) has all the stomping breakdowns you could want, even as it’s got tricky post-Zappa, post-Crimson, post-Don Cab zig-zags to boot. Likewise there’s a dirty dollop of Melvins sludge in the middle of “An Ally to Comprehension,” but, this being Dysrhythmia, it is quickly subject to some strange musical alchemy whereby it becomes something like hardcore Mahavishnu. And for pure noise, head right for “Sleep Decayer” (the rapid-fire single notes constitute a shimmering drone which builds into a harmonics-rich noise freakout).

It’s interesting that for a band that’s so all over the place, I keep coming back to notions of balance and integration. But I think it works, and that’s because Dysrhythmia works. They’ve got their own thing and it rules.

By Jason Bivins

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