Mid-decade, a gaggle of guitar bands were spazzing out. When Liars picked up the Gang of Four’s loose-string clang, then just as quickly threw it away, it exposed a fresh vein for mining heavy ore. A steady high-hat, it turned out, cultivated cutting riffs just as well as the frantic tempo changes of ’90s math rock.
Pterodactyl fit into that scene, initially. Breaking glass noise informed their debut album. But that disc stood out because of their nearly electronic approach to repetition. The take on spastic wasn’t all over the place. They’d lock in on an awkwardly complex rhythm, like a breakbeat, and layer looping guitar figures. Instead of topping it all with goofball shouting, they worked out harmonies. Listening closely, their material had the feel of layered sampling, fixed cycles that moved in and out of phase. Stepping back, the natural drums and amplifiers made it clear they were a rock band, albeit one where the songs didn’t depend on key changes. Tension and release came from the cycles piling up and falling away.
Worldwild hones that approach, and leaves behind the spaz. The harmonies on their first record felt like an afterthought. Now, they’re often the starting point. As they sing in unison on the opener, huge metallic thuds fill the gasps for air. They’ve expanded their tool kit. "Februrary" is driven along by a plastic toy strum while rippling guitar lines and tom-tom percussion give the songs a tribal feel. It’s akin to the contorted world-music vibe of fellow Brooklynites Yeasayer, though Pterodactyl’s helixed notes keep it from ever becoming that warm. The discipline of their interlocking sound puts them at the less approachable end of their particular art rock scene. Which is interesting, ‘cause for all the noise, there’s nothing assaultive about them.
This lets them get away with some tricks that would come across lot more saccharine if backed by traditional songwriting. "Old Clouds," with its guitars on heavy delay and scraping bass, has all the hallmarks of Steve Lillywhite cathedral rock. Their vocal blur and static guitar restrict the drama, but maintain the mountaintop view. As the record ascends its summit, harmony struggles to be heard among the rush of three guitars running at different tempos. It’s like their equation is starting to flip – up close it’s a rock band, but when you step back, it’s a Spirograph.