Record of the Week: Lithics: Photograph, You of 7"

Lithics: Photograph, You of 7” (Thrilling Living) I was familiar with Portland’s Lithics before this single, having seen them live and spun their Kill Rock Stars LP, Mating Surfaces, a handful of times. I enjoyed the live set and the LP, but this single is a jaw-dropper. The touchstones of Lithics’ angular post-punk-informed sound are obvious—Gang of Four, Devo, the Pop Group, Kleenex—but they take the sound to a new level here, the tension taut as a crossbow’s string. Much of that tension comes from how the individual instruments—drums, bass, vocals, and two guitars—play completely different figures. Everyone follows the same robotic pulse, but the melodies are so distinct from one another that they could be from different songs. Consequently, you're pulled in different directions because your ear can only focus on one melody at a time, and trying to keep track of everything feels like the aural equivalent of being drawn and quartered. However, even though the elements are so disparate and disconnected, they still coalesce into something resembling a pop song. This is true of the a-side, and I’ve hummed “a photograph… you of” to myself dozens of times over the past week. The sensation I get from listening to these tracks resembles what I get from extended jazz improvisations, where the central melody floats through the air like a cloud, sometimes there, sometimes not and sometimes just a ghost of itself. That Lithics build a similar listening experience out of the raw materials of angular post-punk is a real innovation and makes for a noteworthy record.

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