By J.J. Anselmi
Scaphe’s third LP, Long Way Down, bursts with shape-shifting energy. The band has been churning out grating math rock since 2009, and it shows: Long Way Down exhibits masterful musicianship as well as song and album arrangement. If King Crimson had a powerviolence bastard child, it might sound something like Scaphe.
The album opens with “Ducks In A Row,” a high-energy blues jam that’s been thrown into a blender, along with a healthy dose of PCP. In the middle of the song, Scaphe breaks down into crushing sludge, which gets enveloped by a guitar solo that verges on white noise. The band then stops on a dime and jumps back into their oddly-timed blues riffage, returning the song to its manic origin.
The second track, “It Won’t Belong,” begins with angular math punk that pays homage to 90s greats like Dazzling Killmen and Keelhaul. The unease of this section is then countered by a towering grunge riff that lodges itself in your head like a parasite.
Following three tracks that seethe with similar energy, “Long Way Down & I Can’t Wake Up” purposefully disrupts the flow of the album with delicate ether—a weirdly unsettling chorus of bells and chimes that eventually morphs into driving, mid-paced rock. The vocals on this track exhibit a change from harsh shouts, which Scaphe uses throughout most of Long Way Down, to catchy harmonies that sound like hooks from an early Dinosaur Jr. album.
“Salt Of The Earth,” the eighth song, is another curveball for the listener. Instead of abusing you with more fast-paced mathiness, this song begins with dissonant acoustic guitar and then evolves into spacey blues, an approach the band also uses in the last song, “The Same Is The Way.” In this last track, however, Scaphe slowly transitions from an inviting acoustic jam into a squall of noise, which is driven by anxious fills and double bass drumming.
Scaphe’s modus operandi is to constantly defy listener expectations, which every song on Long Way Down deftly accomplishes. But, unlike most other bands with the same goal, Scaphe does this while also creating a cohesive album.