Australian experimental rock project SEIMS release new album ‘FOUR’ on 22nd October, through Australian labels Art As Catharsis & Bird’s Robe as well as European vinyl label Dunk Records.
For fans of: Battles, The Physics House Band, 65daysofstatic, Adebisi Shank, Alarmist & Three Trapped Tigers.
The brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Simeon Bartholomew, SEIMS has evolved into an explorational and formidable band over the course of several records, including their most recent release ‘3’ and ‘3.1’ which featured the stabbing punk of ‘Cyan’ and lilting math-rock ode ‘Imperfect Black’. The band are another very interesting example of the current wave of Aussie prog-rock / metal rock bands, this one being at the more experimental end of the range, and largely instrumental. They create a sort of ambient-rock, but not the slow, warm, dreamy sort commonly associated with the genre, its generally upbeat, metallic but not heavy.
As well as Simeon performing bass, guitars, synths, piano & vocals himself, it also features blistering performances from Plini drummer Chris Allison, Kat Hunter & Susie Bishop on violins & Tangents/FourPlay member Peter Hollo on cellos.
Initially conceived as a one-man studio project in 2012, the band has expanded into a ferocious live act with some of Sydney’s most talented musicians. SEIMS has shared stages with a diverse array of acts including Tortoise, Regurgitator, We Lost The Sea & Jean Jean. They performed at back to back Progfest events in 2018 & 2019 and have toured Japan twice, featuring at Tokyo’s iconic math-rock festival Bahamasfest.
In 2020 they were due to play the main stage at UK festival ArcTanGent, alongside Opeth, This Will Destroy You & Swans, when the pandemic forced the postponement of the event. They are now due for their maiden UK/EU tour in 2022, again featuring a performance at ArcTanGent.
I have to confess I initially had no idea what math-rock is! Wikipedia (bless’em) describes it as “a style of progressive and indie rock with roots in bands such as King Crimson and Rush as well as 20th-century minimal music composers such as Steve Reich. It is characterized by complex, atypical rhythmic structures (including irregular stopping and starting), counterpoint, odd time signatures, angular melodies, and extended, often dissonant, chords.” So there you have it, and having listened to the album before seeing this, I have to say it does genuinely capture them quite succinctly!
The album was written & produced by Simeon Bartholomew himself, engineered by Tim Carr (We Lost The Sea), mixed by Alex Wilson (sleepmakeswaves) & mastered by Jeff Lipton and Maria Rice.
The album opens with A Showdown without a Victim, a slab of instrumental electro-prog that conjures the dark “Stranger Things” sort of landscape – it encapsulates the album as a whole. It’s followed by Biting Tongues, which opens with a clean guitar chord progression before croaky, whispered vocals sidle in against another dark, spooky musical backdrop. It’s an interesting arrangement that builds with layers of sound that both jar but flow fluidly at the same time!
Elegance over Confidence opens with a shimmering piano cadence before another slightly unsettling keys riff plus pacey percussion develops. Also underpinned by a darker layer of sustained chords, its like the soundtrack to a fairly frenetic, scarey drama film – a sense of the chase perhaps? In my head, a brief burst of freedom via a tasty guitar-led section before an imagined point of capture…
Nuance Lost in Translation could be a nursery rhyme in its opening section! – gently building layers of quite simple repeated strings of notes punctuated with plinks and plonks. Again, the almost classical style of composition, layers developing on top of each other in a nicely satisfying whole, for an experimetal (like that, huh?) instrumental this holds my attention more than I thought it would!
Shouting at a Brick Wall follows a similar format, gentle almost pastoral opening sequence, quite sparse guitar work flowing dreamily between my lobes before my meandering is abruptly brought to a halt by a pretty punky Adverts-like banging, crashing set of chords. There’s a brief let-up before more of the same with added fiddle, then we’re back to a punchier version of the intro but wth added brass! Fun!
Stranded/Isolated is perhaps designed to flow on from “Brick Wall”, a hypnotic keys riff gradually grows before being punctuated by cannon-like drums. Somehow the vibe of the song is at odds with the ambience suggested by the title, maybe that’s the point here? There is a slower section where msybe the “narrator” realises they’re on their own, followed by an increasing sense of unease / despair? All a bit Gothick!
The Mountain’s Lullaby is a brief piano-led led classical piece, could again be a sound-track to a Charlie Chaplin film or similar (in which our hero is perhaps stuck in a “hole” of some sort, and trying to get out of it ?! The Mountain’s Scream could then be an altogether manic flip-side of the previous track, a sharply cutting metallic riff sawing away with crisp percussion emphasising, strangely featuring the album’s second set of vocals, that could almost be a small football crowd chanting….at nearly six and a half minutes, this is the album’s longest composition, a prog-metal workout that moves through several layers and movements before gently subsiding.
The Pursuit of Intermediate Happiness – Great Title, one of many here! Like the rest, this is cleverly composed in layers, building from a gentle guitar-led beginning, augmented by a string section, then percussion. Strings become more dominant, joined by a sort of tinny acoustic guitar, lots of splashy cymbals before fading away…. Understatement closes this composition (feels like a more appropriate word than album?), a slow pastoral meander punctuated by odd little plucked chords every now and then. A strange number, it’s almost a lullaby signifying a drowsy end to the day? And that’s it – an intriguing set of compositions, if you want to know what math-rock is, give this a whirl!
The band have just now shared the third single from the album, ‘Showdown Without A Victim’ is now available from bandcamp now at https://seims.bandcamp.com/track/showdown-without-a-victim