Math Rock duo Mi’ens certainly make an impression with their latest release, Challenger. True to this sub-genre of indie rock, Mi’ens’ drummer Evan and guitarist Kim utilize unconventional song structures, unusual time signatures, and melodic dissonance in order to showcase musical ability. At times, it is easy to hear the influence of their Math Rock forefathers. Spiderland by Slint, Mirrored by Battles, American Don by Don Caballero and American Football’s self-titled album have all clearly left a mark on Mi’ens. An immense amount of music theory knowledge, talent and accuracy is a prerequisite for math rock, and Mi’ens do not falter. “Challenger,” the eponymous track of the album is a composition in which guitars juxtapose themselves, woven between each other in counterpoint. The melody of this track is as jagged as it is repetitive, but catchy nonetheless. “Ja Baar,” the third track off the album, contains a seriously impressive guitar melody that sounds as if it spans the entirety of the guitar neck.
While the band’s musicality is tantamount to many of the other great bands in the genre, their style is noticeably similar to more-recent, lesser-known math rock groups like Hella and Tera Melos. But Challenger has its limitations. Clocking in at a brief 20 minutes, the listener is made to desire more diversity between tracks. Maybe on a longer release the band would have extended further into their musical knowledge to create even more wild and crazy sounds. This album, however, leaves you yearning for just a little bit more. Guitar chords or riffs are looped at the beginning of almost every song. While this looping acts as a backdrop for stunning guitar work, the continuation of a single riff (for minutes at a time) ultimately limits the songs to just a few different melodies. The end result: undynamic song structure. At points, songs virtually blend into one another.
Nevertheless, the instrumentation remains undeniably impressive. For any average guitar player, listening to Challenger will conjure up a feeling of ineptitude: as good as you may think you are, there will always be someone better. And, chances are, they’re in a math rock band.