Things we know about Adebisi Shank: The group features a bassist that only appears in public or photographs while wearing a red hooded mask, they have a slightly ungainly band name, and they actually titled a song on their new album, “(-_-).” That’s right, an unpronounceable emoticon. If these facts haven’t proven the point that the Wexford, Ireland, trio is a little left of center, then even the slightest listening of This Is The Second Album Of A Band Called Adebisi Shank definitely will. The group’s closest current analog would probably be Battles, in that both bands play mostly instrumental, next-to-unclassifiable music that would be easy to label math-rock, but in fact offers much more than time signature shredding. However, on 2007’s Mirrored, Battles pieced together an album that displayed a sense of meticulous planning and composition. While Adebisi Shank probably put a comparable amount of effort into the construction of their songs, they come across way more spontaneous — as if the finger-knotting riffs that unspool throughout the album were events of nature — and more fixated on pop songcraft.
They’re also a lot louder than any band you could immediately compare them to. The trio never shies away from infusing tracks with seam-bursting bombast and levels of intensity usually found in hardcore music, which in turn offers a slight sense of danger to the proceedings. Floor-shaking chords share space with sharply distorted bass and wiry guitar runs in an attempt to keep listeners’ senses constantly in the red. Since moments like these manage to successfully tap into such a primally satisfying place, the times when the band calms down a bit are almost like the equivalent of crashing after an especially strong sugar high. Fortunately, things never stay calm for too long.
The opening trio of “International Dreambeat,” “Masa,” and “Genki Shank” make the best case for Adebisi Shank’s strengths as a band, each track stuffed to the brim with Lar Kye’s overblown guitars, skittering electronics, and Mick Roe’s stampeding drum parts. The latter track of the three opens with a Fugazi-like groove before evolving into a galloping parade of riffs topped off with robotic vocals. It’s the poppiest track on the album by far, and suggests feelings of triumph much like their Sargent House labelmates Fang Island. The reverent nods towards punk pioneers pop up once more on album closer “Century City,” which could easily soundtrack a short film about the Minutemen slowly being turned into robots. “Frunk” successfully pairs repetitive, teeth-gnashing riffs with bubbly keyboards, and what sounds like samples of an a capella group fed into a blender.
While this review may suggest that Adebisi Shank merely does one thing extremely well, it has to be pointed out that their “one thing” has become quite bright and multifaceted (especially in comparison to their first album, which, if recorded at the same time as this one, would probably be a lot louder). Adebisi Shank is proudly standing as a defibrillator for the sometimes-stuffy world of math rock, and seems eager to drag listeners to their left.