Culture in rock music is growing. Not the culture within the genre itself, per se, but moreso that rock is being influenced and reshaped by outside cultures. For example, Japanese rock — or J-Rock, for short — is gaining more and more steam lately, especially among American fans. Groups like Tricot, Indigo la End, Elephant Gym, and Toe have been banging onto our playlists, lately, and are very welcomed (It was even just announced this week that Tricot will be joining American math-rock band CHON on their upcoming US tour).
Culture’s place in rock music doesn’t end with just its country of origin though. Back in 2006, then experimental super-group The Sound of Animals Fighting released their sophomore effort Lover, The Lord Has Left Us… which featured several different languages and cultural styles such as Sanskrit, German, and Japanese, showing that homages can be paid to these cultures and styles without appropriating them.
On April the 20th, in the year of our Zord, 2018, Brighton based post/math-rock trio Poly-Math are set to release their second full-length record House of Wisdom | We Are The Devil (Lonely Voyage Records). A double LP (produced by Lee MacMahon who also worked with And So I Watch You From Afar), the release revolves around Baghdad’s 13th century House of Wisdom and the siege of the city in 1258 — a moment considered by historians to have been one of the major causes of the end of the Islāmic Golden Age.
Throughout the album, the Arabic influences shine subtly as bookends and interludes, highlighting specific moments and movements. It is as much a sonic history lesson as it is a rock album, with each track gliding through a different feel to emphasize separate glances into this time period.
Honestly, what could be a more fitting subject for a math-rock band than the story of an institution devoted to the search for and preservation of knowledge? The House of Wisdom was the centre of science and philosophy in its time, bringing the question to mind: what might the world have been like if the Mongols never sacked the city that day? What if the library were allowed to continue and progress?
As an instrumental band, Poly-Math use their melodies, structures, rhythms, and thematic ideas to bring these types of questions to the table. They achieve the sacred duality of art which is to bridge entertainment with enlightenment. It can and has been a way for the world to learn while having fun. At times, it can be unbalanced; becoming strictly educational or purely entertaining/borderline vapid. But, as long as it contains a self-awareness in regards to where it lies on that spectrum, no harm, no foul.
So, here’s to hoping more artists continue to seek inspiration from different places, as Poly-Math have done here with their interpretation of a snapshot in history. A moment that may very well have been a major turning point in time. And one that is well-deserving of the attention to detail poured into House of Wisdom | We Are The Devil.
House of Wisdom | We Are The Devil is out on April 20th.
Featured image courtesy of Lonely Voyage Records.