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Homespun: The Conformists

Three Hundred (54°40' or Fight!)


Three Hundred starts off with an untitled track consisting of 30 seconds of silence. It's hard to know whether the Conformists meant this to be a palate-cleanser or an ultra-dramatic entry into its latest record. Either way, they're the last moments of silence you'll hear, as the next song, "Laundry Hepburn," unloads a machine-gun-burst of drums and trigger-finger guitar lines. The Conformists have been tagged in these pages as this city's best noise band, and while there's a good heap of atonal guitar squalls and scattershot drumming on Hundred, it demonstrates that the quartet possesses more focus and discipline than most noise bands. The songs veer more toward beefed-up math-rock, filled with constantly shifting time signatures and enough fits and starts to trigger an epileptic fit.

The mere existence of this record is cause for celebration in and of itself: Recorded in November of 2005 with famed engineer Steve Albini, Three Hundred was intended for release over a year ago and is just now coming out on esteemed indie label 54䓨' or Fight! Conformists fans will find it worth the wait. The album exhibits the sparse production for which Albini is lauded, and the cavernous sound lets the instruments do the talking. In particular, this lack of studio sweetening allows for polyrhythmic interplay between the guitar and bass (although sometimes at the expense of Mike Benker's vocals, which are often low in the mix). Hundred's best tracks are made up of no fewer than four different movements or sections — not one song keeps a consistent beat or bass line, and the tracks themselves tend to wash into one another. But this is no criticism; instead, it's a model befitting a band that, ten years into its career, continues to merge and meld discordant, difficult music into something bigger than the sum of its parts.

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