WORDS: Henry Jones
The name ‘ANIMALS AS LEADERS’ is nowadays essentially synonymous with fantastic, progressive, technically demanding instrumental music. They’re an established sound and have found a very unique place among their peers. It comes as no surprise, then, that ANIMALS AS LEADERS guitarist Javier Reyes offers his own unique blend of low tuned grooves and instrumental goodness in the form of MESTIS.
One could be forgiven for assuming there would be a great deal of correlation between the sound established by MESTIS and that of ANIMALS AS LEADERS. It certainly helps approaching the former with a similar mentality as that of the latter. However, that being said, MESTIS’s first release, Basal Ganglia, bore its own unique style and sound, which, while not being particularly lengthy, succeeded in its honest and accessible approach. It did not attempt to be intimidatingly heavy, nor overtly complex. It was, for all its brevity, a refreshing scent among stagnant waters.
With Polysemy, MESTIS has approached things differently. For one, this is a full length release, and is much wider in scope and bigger in scale. Secondly, there has been a distinct shift in direction, though not too extreme as to alienate those already following the project. Musically, this album sees a shift more towards the style exhibited in Reyes’ other project, ANIMALS AS LEADERS, though in a far more relaxed and easy going style. This shift in sound accents an already unique sound with a darker, more aggressive tonality, which does well to refresh a dry palette of endless instrumental bands all trying to do the same thing.
One of the real highlights of Polysemy, however, is the unfathomable brilliance that is Javier Reyes’ extended range guitar tone. Combined with the sharp rattle of bass, the guitar tone is low, heavy, and intriguing. It creates a great deal of engaging contrast throughout the record, as evidenced in the appropriately titled Gentle Giant. Indeed, the tone itself greatly enhances the already brilliant production quality. Everything has its own space, and a great deal of it too, creating a wide entertaining mix of highs and lows. And yes, it djents.
Unfortunately, a shift to a style more reminiscent of ANIMALS AS LEADERS has affected the sound in an odd way. While on the one hand, it injects a freshness into the MESTIS sound, on the other, it seems to smother a chick in the nest. While of course Reyes explores his sound in an interesting and unique way, it’s a little disappointing to hear an already interesting and unique sound just turn into yet another instrumental band that sounds like ANIMALS AS LEADERS, even if it from one of the members of the latter. It seems as though Polysemy does not try hard enough to establish its own sound considering it must be a conscious effort to step out from under the ANIMALS AS LEADERS shadow.
But, regardless of its comparisons with other projects, Polysemy is a competent and pleasant instrumental piece with many fine moments, boasting brilliant intricacy, refreshing simplicity, and one of the best guitar tones on the market right now. While it seems like it’s moving in a direction already covered by a host of preceding bands, Polysemy is a sublime listening experience.
Polysemy is out now via Sumerian Records.