Review: INUS – “Western Spaghettification”

Cherish this, kids, because records like Western Spaghettification don’t come along often.

The trio INUS, whose full-length debut is out Aug. 9 from San Diego’s Three One G, prominently features Bobby Bray, he formerly of The Locust, and you can hear The Locust’s dedication to rapid-fire, herky-jerky time signatures and abrasive polyrhythms in much of INUS’ confounding work. But, there, the similarities end. Where The Locust was a thrashy, screamo affair, INUS flashes more muted – relatively speaking – colors, even flashing nods to jazz fusion. Bray’s distortion is kept to a minimum and what dominates the landscape is the trio moving abruptly and intentionally as one, a cobbled mass of drums, bass, guitar and piano. And, did I mention that most of the record’s lyrics are delivered in a somewhat indecipherable, almost cartoonishly squeaky falsetto? Yeah, it’s that kind of record.

While the band released the excellent “Time Is A Person” as the “single” advancing release of the LP, I’m partial to “We Are Our Computers’ Genitalia,” where the piano’s knotted mathiness is more on display and you can see and hear more delineation between bridges. (The excellent “There Was A Fish In The Percolator” and “Whose Methane Gas Is On Mars?” pull similar tricks, occasionally waxing prog-ish.) The title of “Computers’ Genitalia” and other tracks hint at grander schisms, but much is left to the imagination in terms of content; if the wonderfully intricate interplay of bass, guitar and piano are any indication, I’m led to believe barely audible lines like “Are we hanging out with our friends?” is secondary to the sonic thrust of the instrumentation.

Comparisons for this type of material, never minds points of reference, are tough to muster. There’s a touch of The Residents, sure, but, more than anything, this owes a lot to time-signature-violators like Ron Anderson, whose bands Molecules and PAK hint at the precision of INUS’ best moments. Those who awed at Graham Costello STRATA’s output recently might see touches of his almost mechanically precise piano in INUS, too. But, it’s difficult to pin down these guys. In short, they sound what you might imagine The Locust would have sounded like it they dialed back the screaming and guitar-crunch but kept all the whirligig beats-per-minute.

Chromatically, the thing is best listened to front to back, as a singular experience, largely because the songs’ themes and tones are very similar to each other. There are detours – the wonderful “For Whom The Bell Curve Tolls” does drop reference to The Locust’s peculiar brand of thrash, minus the apocalyptic overtones. Largely, though, this is one big sonic explosion, a kind of abstract-expressionist take on the intersection of jazz and highly caffeinated math rock.

Live, I’ve heard the band interjects Department of Defense videos, bits of audio poking fun at for-profit universities, breaks for commercial sponsors and the like into its sets, lending them a highly contextualized “happening” feel.  Western Spaghettification’s title track flirts with the same technique – there are news reports about Yemeni bomb attacks and ITT advertisements, as well as other sonic ephemera, on display in the song’s mid-section – but what steals the scene are things like the frantic kick-drum spitting out streams of rhythm at the beginning of the track or the haunting breakdown of piano and spacey synth after the sound-file quotations.

In short, if you consider yourself brave and untarnishable in the audio arena, you owe it to yourself to check out this record. It’s a complicated bit of sound, highly constructed and a lot of scenery on which to chew, but it almost might be the work of geniuses. – Justin Vellucci, MusicTAP, July 26, 2019


About the author

Justin Vellucci is a staff writer for PopMatters, Spectrum Culture, and MusicTAP, a contributor to Pittsburgh Current, and a former staffer for Popdose, Punk Planet and Delusions of Adequacy. His music writing has appeared in national magazines such as American Songwriter, alt-pubs like The Brooklyn Rail, Pittsburgh CityPaper and San Diego CityBeat, blogs Swordfish, Punksburgh and Linoleum, and the Gannett magazine Jetty. He lives in Pittsburgh.

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