New releases are rarely as high concept as the Menimals debut. The four piece is self-described as “kraut rock with strong ambient influences”, but theatrical principles hold considerable sway. The band’s membership is American Doctor Forge on vocals joined by The Rat on drums, The Chimera on bass, and The Gryphon on guitar. Each of these monikers is meant to serve as representations of the four Platonic solids, the classical elements of alchemy, and the symbolism suggested by the animal masks they wear. This is a largely European dominated project with three of the four members living in Northern Italy, but any logistical disconnect doesn’t have an effect on the coherence behind the project. Despite the dense conceptual nature of the material, the Menimals rely on a structured approach that balances accessibility and significance.
The slow bass and drum groove opening “In this Unforgiving Heat” conjures Arabesque visions. The treated vocals seem to be vocalizing from somewhere deep in a void and their otherworldly quality matches up well with the minimalist accompaniment. The extended running time is a bit problematic thanks to lack of outright variations in the tempo, but Menimals’ songwriting is more a process of accretion than big, obvious moments. Doctor Forge’s vocals later in the song retain the same emerging from a void quality and give the song an ominous, funereal quality. “Dodecahedron” doubles down on the doomy vibe of the opener and this track moves like a large snake coiling its way through the weeds. The Gryphon erupts with a number of well-timed blasts of black guitar while Forge’s breathy vocals seethe over the track with a strong incantatory slant.
“Tetrahedron” is much more solid psychedelia than the earlier tracks and returns the band to definable songwriting structures rather than indulging in the release’s more amorphous musings. The space created by The Rat’s tasteful drumming is another key musical ingredient setting this track apart from the rest. “Transition from a Cube to the Octahedron” is a rather unwieldy title, but it’s perhaps the album’s darkest musical interlude and pushes a practically subterranean groove. It’s the album’s longest song, clocking in at nearly ten minutes in length, and is primarily driven by ambient sheets of electronica punctuated by glittering guitar flourishes. Their debut album closes with the track “Bird on the Wing As a Hinge”. It’s nearly as long as the preceding track but, fortunately, much closer to conventional songwriting. It returns the band to a primarily psychedelic slant and intersperses reverb soaked guitar lines with patchwork drumming and strong ambient atmospherics.
Few debuts will challenge you more. The Menimals might turn off some potential listeners with their high concept presentation, but just as many will be attracted to their stubborn refusal to pursue mainstream ends. The debut’s five tracks live up to their billing as kraut rock with strong ambient influences, but fans of progressive rock will find this to be among the more innovative and inspiring creative works in recent memory.
SOUNDCLOUD – https://soundcloud.com/menimals