Admittedly, before a couple weeks ago, I didn’t know much about California’s Upsilon Acrux. I had no idea the band had been around for almost twenty years, is set to release album number seven and have toured and shared the stage with the Locust, the Fucking Champs, the Dillinger Escape Plan, the Boredoms and a bunch of other weird-o bands that don’t have “the” in their names. One would have thought that, with all those bands being near the top of my own musical radar since before Unlocking the Truth were even a gleam in their parents’ eyes let alone a band, I would have stumbled across Upsilon Acrux at some point in the game. But, in the same way you can’t win ’em all, you can’t know everything. However, you can expose yourself to a new find if you sit down and shut up long enough, and what a find this band are!
Originally formed as a homage to King Crimson – their debut album was titled In the Acrux of the Upsilon King – Upsilon Acrux has made it their mission to blow, expand and confuse minds and ears since 1997. Imagine King Crimson, Zappa, Don Caballero, Battles, Orthrelm (or any Mick Barr project for that matter), Gore and free jazz bouncing off the padded walls of your local nuthouse and there you have it: a completely ridiculous and unhelpful analogy. Luckily, we’ve got a tune called “Dogshit on the Shoulders of Giants” from their upcoming seventh album, Sun Square Dialect, on tap for you below. Check it out, then uncross your eyes and check it out again.
About the song, by guitarist and founding member, Paul Lai:
“Whenever I have the pleasure of having two drummers, I always ask them to write a song, or at least most of a song, just the drums, and we fill in the melodies and do the arrangement together. I think riffs and melodies broken up and set by rhythm is always golden. Different instrumentation facilitates a different way of playing a melody and I generally think the drummer-written songs are the most interesting because rhythm is so fuckin’ important, in our band and otherwise. So, this is the drummers’ song. I think it’s the most briskly moving song on the album with just a tiny bit of repetition.There are constant clashes of 3 vs. 2, or 3 vs. 4, a super-stuttered middle section that has little tempo, and the beginning is an equally fast and slow part depending on which of your ears has less hearing loss.
“I think close intervals in harmonies create a beautiful tension, though some would say it’s an ugly disharmony. I feel it’s based primarily on what your ears are attuned to hearing. In that same way, I think when you have polyrhythms that don’t line up every measure or stack on top of each other or that don’t sync together, played without tempo, based on contrast, it’s the fuckin’ cream! But most people will probably think we’re fucking up, so in very certain terms this song to me is close interval drumming at it’s best and real proof that when you have two drummers not only working together, but working against each other in a collapsible form, it sets up a hyperized form of dynamic that’s equally hard for the performer and the listener. Which essentially is the core of what we do.”
*Band photo by Ebrahim Saleh
*Cover art by Rob Sato
Sun Square Dialect is out April 14th on New Atlantis Records