Beauty in Refraction — MUON’s ‘The Shape of Shapes to Come’

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Whether as a calculated nod to self-reflexivity or as a result of plain coincidence, MUON have titled a song “Apophenia” on their latest LP. The term denotes the experience of forging meaning from random and disparate streams of data. There are a great many things to be said about the towering edifice of aural wonders that the band has erected and nomenclature might be the most illuminating way to attempt an approach towards appreciating The Shape of Shapes to Come (Shapes).

This is a portentous record made up not so much of songs but of shapes: shapes that shift with every modulation of phase and rhythm within the disparate movements that give each track its fluid structural integrity. That is the beating heart of the conceptual ingenuity of the record. Every item on the track list is, in different ways, darkly emblazoned with the vigorously insistent drumming, artful and insinuatory guitars, mood-inflected keys and blurps and pulsating resonant bass that works to continually (re)define the shifting parameters of this work.

The first track, “Aleph”, is a succinct blueprint of the world that is Shapes. Like the Phoenician letter, it alludes to—the Aleph—which is the predecessor of the Greek “Alpha”; in “Aleph” lies in germ the elements that inspire and animate the run-time of each track on this record. In “Aleph”, as in the other tracks, there is no inlet of uniformity for the listener to comfortably assume his/her place. The initially languid atmosphere of the track is undercut by an urgency that does not so much veer it away from its loungy origins as it does add a propulsive rhythm to the veneer of calm the track begins with. What follows is the aptly christened “Aqua Assault”. Roiling ferment is the essence of this song. Amidst the backdrop of a constant bass line, restive guitars, frenetic drumming and sporadically pullulating keys herald the eruption of a sea-borne insurgency. A dialectic of brooding electronica and reverberating alt rock, “Aqua Assault” recombines the hallmarks of both genres into a more complex, more evolved whole that is compellingly evocative.

The men of MUON are master craftsmen in the stylized presentation of sound. Thorough and within the interplay of the incredibly varied and complex rhythms that swirl around each other in the space of a single track, the opportunities to make something with and to visualize the veritable smorgasbord of sounds is tremendous.

Everything on this record is redolent of an elegance that is above and beyond the easy reprieve of emotion. Even on “Jesus Jones”, which features the pining lyric “Where are you / I seek for you” – it is impossible to settle into that nook of yearning and wanting that would have been possible on a more “direct” soundscape. Skittish blurps, plangent guitars and foreboding keys meld around easy other, coaxing the listeners away from feeling and leading them into the realm of seeing. Flashes, gashes and swirls of color, memory and experience percolate, coalesce and flit away in every shape.

“The Switch” is yet another intriguing product from MUON. Lachrymose guitars are carried into a dark groove by a truly expert rhythm section before a sample of a male voice retelling a uretic tale of oddly—even defiantly—existential dimensions stops to allow for a moment of calm, a lull in time and gravity before the wielders of the instruments unleash a cataclysm of sound. This is truly the dark side of the sublime.

Militantly monumental in its scope, Shapes is testament of how craft, vision and style can tear through the fabric of the medium to take the perennial tendencies of meaning-making and meaning-searching to completely wondrous dimensions. Shapes is a triumph. Only a rockist Luddite would disagree.

—Indran Paramasivam

 

Indran is a freelance writer especially interested in culture and the arts. In this age of speed and connectivity, the relationship between art and society and between art and culture is complex and dynamic. Situated in Singapore, Indran is actively involved in exploring how art, particularly, music, is produced and received amidst a backdrop of ever-evolving trends and influences.
Contact: indranparamasivam@gmail.com