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Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014

Strange Matter’s Belated EP

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You don’t have to look far beyond the annual barrage of obligatory year-end best-of lists to realize that we often use music as a way of marking time, not only in our own lives but also in relation to how we make sense of an artist’s oeuvre. Yet while a release may seem to be a snapshot of a band at a particular point in time, life is more complicated than a neat little discography entry lets on, and what you’re hearing may not reflect current realities. Take the “new” Ennui Actuation Dissolver EP from Milwaukee experimental hardcore trio Strange Matter which, while recorded three years ago with a different drummer, is just now seeing the light of day as a freshly minted 7-inch. As they say, better late than never.

“We recorded it in 2011 with our friend Amos Pitsch in Appleton at the BFG House, with our first drummer Mat [Lutchman], Tim [Triplett] and me,” says bassist/singer Anthony Dean Schwader, adding that the sessions went well, but when it was all played back together there was an unpleasant surprise. “It wasn’t mixed until 2012 because I had to redo some guitar tracks since and—somehow we didn’t realize this at the time—the guitars were out of tune when we recorded,” Triplett explains. Commitments to various projects delayed fixing the error, but circumstances eventually, serendipitously, came together. “So we kind of sat on the recording until my other band Holy Shit! went up there to do our album,” says Schwader, “and Tim just hitched a ride with us.”

Initially intended for split releases with Soup Moat and Lamb’s Legs, those plans fell through, and the material sat on the shelf, but, convinced they had something special, they resisted the urge to simply dump the tracks online and instead saved up the funds to press it to vinyl independently. It’s a good thing they did too, since the disc, released via Dirty Hippy Barn Records, an ad hoc imprint named after their house, sounds fantastic, more than doing justice to the angular, dynamic shards of post-hardcore that’ve earned Strange Matter rightful comparisons to the likes of Minutemen and Man Man (as well as less-thought-out parallels to Dead Kennedys, Swiss metalheads Celtic Frost and a number of other unusual suspects that have often left Schwader and Triplett baffled).

Whatever you want to liken it to, the sound is arresting and confident, an expression of the musical rapport Schwader and Triplett have developed over their 20-year friendship (“It’s like the instruments finish each other’s sentences”, as Triplett describes it), which comes through despite the songs being brief enough to comfortably fit seven of them on a 45. “We definitely have a short attention span,” says Triplett, “but you can do a lot in a minute.” As speedy, loud and at times doom-laden as the songs are, the lyrics, if you can decipher them, communicate something more playful. “Lyrically speaking at least, at times it’s really fucking silly—there’s a lot of observational stuff,” laughs Schwader. “We’re the ‘Seinfeld’ of lyrics; the songs are about nothing. We’re just describing things.”

But again, while Ennui Actuation Dissolver is a local new release worth being excited about, for Strange Matter it’s already old hat to some degree, especially considering the band has a new drummer and new songs edging these ones out of their live set. “There is a sense of, ‘Okay, it’s done, let’s move on with Brian,’ because this is all Mat era stuff,” says Schwader, “We’ve got six or seven songs exclusively with Brian already, and we’re just excited to move forward with the new iteration of the band.”

“We definitely need to record again,” agrees Triplett. “We’re ready, but it’s just about finding a time to do it because we’re all in so many different bands.” However long it takes though, it will likely be worth the wait.

Strange Matter’s Ennui Actuation Dissolver EP is streaming at strangematter.bandcamp.com.