Menomena: Playing on Prefix

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Playing on Prefix is a new feature on KCRW’s Music Blog where writers from the eclectic music site Prefix hip you to what’s coming out of their computer speakers this week.

menomenaWith four albums under their belt, Portland trio Menomena are still using band member Brent Knopf’s homemade software Deeler to record and edit their music. They continue to switch instruments, both onstage and in the studio, and pursue excellent side projects (see: Danny Seim’s Lackthereof and Brent Knopf’s Ramona Falls). Menomena‘s hallmark is democracy, the kind that’s relentlessly creative and joyfully experimental in scope.

Menomena‘s latest album, the long-anticipated Mines, finds them integrating elements of traditional song structure into their sample-happy routine. On past albums — like 2007’s acclaimed Friend and Foe — the songs shift gears quickly, samples and riffs competing for airtime and ear space. On Mines, there are tastes of the same technique; with anxious, delicate strings layered over a frantic sax-and-drums rhythm line, “Bote” is a bit of a throwback to earlier work.

However, standout second track “Taos” finds the band applying a dose of conventional rock-and-roll to their sound.

There’s a line in “Taos” that goes “Bring me peace/ From this wolf covered in fleece,” which also happens to be a great description of Menomena‘s music. There’s always a burbling undercurrent of unrest that lashes out, then gets mollified by a soft piano riff or string sample. It is equal parts catharsis and repression, which makes Menomena a fascinating study and helps their albums hold up on repeat listens.

It’s been a great summer for highly-anticipated albums from indie rock stalwarts, and as far as Prefix is concerned, Mines is near the top of the list.

— Susannah Young