Friday, December 12, 2014

Pitchfork on Anatomy of Habit

Anatomy of Habit

Ciphers + Axioms

Relapse; 2014

By Grayson Haver Currin; December 11, 2014


For the noise musician Mark Solotroff, Ciphers + Axioms ends in very familiar territory. For eight minutes, amplifiers and instruments scream the sort of feedback, static, and clipped tones that are endemic both to his caterwauling power-electronics band Bloodyminded and his long-running extreme experimental imprint, Bloodlust! The sounds grow evermore dense, ultimately forming a thicket of prevailing hiss. But beneath and around the din, a repetitive guitar riff—just a few notes, really, folding into each other via delay and reverb—illuminate the abrasion, flickering like the light of a warm cabin spotted through a snowstorm. It’s not an accessibility concession that the wonderfully barbaric Bloodyminded would dare make.

Ciphers + Axioms is, instead, the intriguing second album from Solotroff’s Chicago supergroup Anatomy of Habit. The album's dual tracks each clock in around 20 minutes, as did the paired cuts from their self-titled 2011 debut; a subsequent EP split those times into a still not-quite-concise half. Despite the lengths, though, Anatomy of Habit is Solotroff’s relative pop band. He speaks and sings instead of screams, and he moves in lockstep time to guitars, drums and bass, all sharing intentions beyond aural obliteration. Each of these songs has at least one hook you’ll be able to hum, as Solotroff’s strange and droll monotone echoes in your head. During Within the Walls, Bloodyminded’s most recent LP, Solotroff yelled lines like, "mounds of bodies lying unburied" and "air so fouled by the pungent stench of millions of dead children." If you encounter temporary cognitive dissonance while singing along to songs about science and seasons with his Mark Mothersbaugh-meets-They Might Be Giants intonation, just trust that you’re not the only one.

Solotroff has long been a very busy and involved collaborator, but in recent years, his partnership has added unexpected elements to pre-existing projects. He supplied, for instance, essential blasts of abrasion to From All Purity, the latest and best record from Chicago metal act Indian. And there’s Wrekmeister Harmonies, the slow-moving and cinematic collective that works between poles of orchestral splendor and doom furor. Aside from founder J.R. Robinson, Solotroff is one of the project’s sole stable and necessary elements. Such integration is key to Ciphers + Axioms. Only Solotroff and Kenny Rasmussen return from Anatomy of Habit’s earlier iteration, but the new members are copacetic by any standard: Will Lindsay, whose brawny riffs lead the aforementioned Indian, commandeers guitar, while indispensable Tortoise and session drummer John McEntire takes the kit. Joan of Arc’s Theo Katsaounis accents the beats with auxiliary percussion. Chicago metal stalwart Sanford Parker engineered the sessions in McEntire’s Soma Electronic Music Studios. This is an enviable cast of contributors.

Together, they are excellent. In particular, the rhythm section of McEntire, Katsaounis, and Rasmussen’s burly and distorted bass works as one of the record’s great assets. During "Radiate and Recede", they power ahead like a seasoned but smart doom band. They pull back in the perfect places, allowing Lindsay’s gnarled riffs and Solotroff’s enigmatic words to cut through their rests. After introducing "Then Window" with an unstable shock of feedback, Lindsay cycles subtly through a series of strong-arm riffs and phantom countermelodies. Katsaounis and McEntire match him in the background, adding touches of bells and woodblocks to drums that suggest an incoming infantry.

The occasional nature of Anatomy of Habit—in particular, this first-time lineup—cuts both ways. There’s a sense of discovery to Ciphers + Axioms, as the members seem to be negotiating their way through domains of post-rock and doom, math rock and post punk collectively. By record’s end, you want them to keep navigating. During the album, though, the nebulous configuration can produce frustrating results. "Radiate and Recede" depends too much on its start-and-stop, quiet-loud-and-louder structure, as the band flips again and again between loaded metal lurch, eerie ambient crawl, and mid-paced art-rock shuffle. A veteran group might get much the same result with an editing overhaul. That symptom also coincides with how Solotroff sounds a touch uncomfortable, or at least not fluid, in his new role as an enunciating frontman. The speak-sing spans of "Radiate and Recede" are forced and stiff, as if he were trying to raise his voice without screaming. He is more at ease and more convincing when he’s actually singing, as when he repeats the title phrase near the middle of the smoldering "Then Window". He airs those words as if to himself, a writer contemplating his own elliptical poetry aloud. And then the band drops into that long, droning finale, its squall wired by Lindsay’s alluring guitar line. You’re left with the suggestion of future possibilities for this take on Anatomy of Habit.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

BloodLust! December 2014 Update

The BloodLust! December 2014 Update has been sent to the mailing list. You may access it here:

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The New Noise on Anatomy of Habit

Album Review: Anatomy Of Habit – “Ciphers + Axioms”

Anatomy Of HabitCiphers + Axioms(Relapse Records)
Before you sit down to read this review, you’d better get yourself something to eat and maybe an iced cold beverage. I’ll give you a few minutes. Alright, are you ready now? Comfortable? Good. Because Ciphers + Axioms is unlike anything that you’ve probably ever heard before. First of all it is a very thick album, completely filled to the brim with heavy moments of doom and drone and elements of avant-garde that make the experience something of a sort of ritualistic event, perhaps more along the lines of a science experiment. Out of the five band members, there is only who has actually been in other metal acts and that is Will Lindsay (Abigail Williams, Indian, ex-Nachtmystium) who as you can see has a fairly strong repertoire behind him. But Lindsay isn’t lighting up the sky or being forced to call upon the ancient spirits of the Norwegian frost; rather he’s serving as a mere thump for what really seems to collaborate into its own atmosphere. Perhaps there are little tinkerings here and there throughout the two full-bodied tracks, but it’s arguably much different than anything we’ve heard from him before before. Adding to that, Mark Solotroff’s vocal approach also stands out quite heavily on the record, making me think of a cross between Dead Can Dance’s Brendan Perry and possibly your college science professor. And just in the fashion of Dead Can Dance, there’s a great deal of dark atmosphere on the album that takes place whilst Solotroff rattles on about a slew of subjects with an oddly monotone, yet hypnotic tone. I’ve listened to the record about four times already and can’t really tell you what it is exactly that Mr. Solotroff happens to be singing about, but I can assure you that it most certainly has everything to do with “cyphers… and axioms” as he repeats this phrase several thousand times during the disc’s latter cut “Then Window.” Both of the tracks weigh in at about twenty minutes, but that seems to suffice in lieu of the massive onslaught of warm and silent atmospheres that appear in each. Unlike other albums, Cyphers + Axioms isn’t really about the words that emanate from it; rather it’s the feeling that you get from listening to the piece as a whole. It’s about John McEntire’s drumming and Theo Katsaounis’s percussion elements, it’s about Kenny Rasmussen’s bass licks and it’s definitely most about Will Lindsay’s guitar soundscapes and Mark Solotroff’s vocal instruments. Yes, Anatomy Of Habit would have been just as effective as an instrumental act, but Solotroff really brings a unique way of thinking to the band and I think that’s what’s going to stand out on your first listen. There are a lot of bands that mix doom and drone together, but never like this. It sounds like science, to be honest – which never really had a sound until now I suppose; so one could even dub it “science metal” if they wanted to even though the scientific community would probably frown upon it. It’s warm and rustic, with a sound all its own, that I just don’t think could be easily replicated to the same effect. Every once in a while a band comes around that you can’t really classify and Anatomy Of Habit are just that kind of act. When I first heard the record, I said in the most unprofessional of manners, “this sounds pretty cool” and have been trying to figure out how to formulate that opinion in the most professional way possible. Which obviously isn’t this. But all joking aside, Ciphers + Axioms is the kind of metal album that you get for the metalhead who has everything. It’s not something they’ll expect and I think that fans of drone, post, doom and avant-garde among other non-metal related genres will also find something to like here. So yeah, it does sound pretty cool. (Eric May)

Summary: A very thick album,
completely filled to the brim with
heavy moments of doom and
drone and elements of avant-
garde that make the experience
something of a sort of ritualistic

Friday, November 21, 2014

Rock-A-Rolla Magazine on Anatomy of Habit

We're grateful to Rock-A-Rolla magazine for their interest in interviewing us and for such a positive review. Here's the review, but please pick up the magazine (#52) to read the interview!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Metal Hammer on Anatomy of Habit

Here's the complete Metal Hammer review we mentioned. Pretty amazing!
Avant-doomsters perform multi-dimensional soul-surgery

A bastion of experimentalism for some of the metal avant- garde’s heaviest hitters, Anatomy Of Habit’s Relapse debut throws out the rulebook and stretches ambitious fingers towards the threshold of perception.

An alchemical mix of doom, noise and goth-tinged post-punk, renowned vocalist Mark Solotroff intones mantras that may make little sense within the bewilderingly powerful moment, but when delivered with his solemnly intoned baritone nevertheless feel revelatory in magnitude, as the music flourishes to collapse around them. Tumultuous crescendos of Neurosis-like riffing melt into dreamlike ethereality, the two 20-minutes-plus tracks avoiding the pitfalls of waning attention span by constantly evolving. Much akin to the experience – and that really is the word for music like this – of listening to Swans for the first time, it can be overwhelming in its cinematic scope. Not like listening to music in the traditional sense, it is about surrendering yourself to a sonic mystery, a dimension of enigmatic potential, never knowing what is around the corner and emerging 40 minutes later feeling altered on a subconscious level.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Anatomy of Habit - Listening Party Announced

BloodLust! November 2014 Update

The BloodLust! November 2014 Update has been sent to the mailing list. You may access it here: