It’s a slow build, an almost grungy guitar riff. Atmospheric harmonics swell in the background and bubble up to the forefront. Your fists clench before the all-out assault, and the moment the drums kick in, all that is left is that “Hell yes” feeling, and a dumb smile plastered on your face. So begins local math-rock quartet As In We’s new release, As Above So Below.
Much of the record’s allure is due to drummer Ben Durfee’s monstrous ability. Since his metal days with Casso Vita, Durfee has honed an almost inhuman knack for rhythmic excellence. The mark of a truly brilliant drummer is to maintain the beat in a steady but interesting manner, a feat that Durfee has accomplished again and again throughout As Above. Drums steer the songs forward while never stealing the spotlight. On “Psychopomp,” Durfee seamlessly transitions between poppy dance beats to a dizzying onslaught of double-kick blasts with ease, an example that actually illustrates the complex nature of the entire work. Interwoven styles pop up at an almost alarming rate with little to no fanfare, or, at the very least, transition so smoothly that it’s hard to recall where that tempo change flared in from or where that softer melody snuck up.
This isn’t to say that guitar and bass-work provided by Haven Willis, Eliza Lutz and Gunnar Lyons is anything less than sublime, or that the drumming is somehow the star of the show. In fact, the deeper you delve into the record, the more times you start it over again (which will happen a lot), the more you come to know that each part is necessary to the overall package. The massive two-part opus, “Pangaea Didn’t Split in a Day” is the perfect example. Despite the song being jam-packed with more music per square inch than just about anything else you’ve heard this year, you would probably miss anything that wasn’t there. Furious guitar melodies and harmonies segue into moments of extreme beauty and build upon what we already know of As In We with new elements like strings provided by Anton Patzner and his brother Lewis, the former being a member of bands like The Audreye Sessions and Bright Eyes.
That As In We strikes such an awe-inspiring balance between so many musical conventions—heavy, dancey, quiet, aggressive, poppy, jammy and on and on—is indicative of their jam band mentality; just don’t liken them to Phish.
Ben Durfee describes the arrangement as, “Awesome, because the more we play and write, the more I realize this collective way of writing has become a lot less common.”
“There can be a catalyst in our practices like a riff or bass piece, but no one person writes the songs; we don’t structure anything before we get [to practice],” adds guitarist Haven Willis. “But adding a second guitarist changed everything, from how we plot out a song to how concise we need to be.”
“We have to really decide what is worth playing or creating and if we can do it how we want without it becoming bogged down,” Gunnar Lyons says. “But we can do a lot more than we ever did before.”
As In We kicks off the release window with a performance at the High Mahyem Emerging Arts space on Nov. 1. As Above So Below will be played in its entirety, which ought to be an intense experience to say the least. Just don’t call ‘em post-rock. “We aren’t post-fucking anything!” Willis says. “We’re here right now.”
As In We CD Release Show w/DJ Bacon
7 pm Friday, Nov. 1. $8
High Mayhem Emerging Arts
2811 Siler Road