Last Hyena - How Soon Is Mars? | Album Review

Despite belonging to the same musical scene and often perceived as sibling musical genres – should such a thing even exist – jagged math-rock and tranquil post-rock often manifest as polar opposites. Whilst both are inherently string explorations of contemporary music theory, post-rock stereotypically takes form in delicately interweaved textures, whereas math-rock is primarily jagged, angular and sidewinding.

With this in consideration, it’s no wonder that most attempts to incorporate the two genres into a singular sound end in confusing and bewildering failure. However, every so often a band will emerge and unionise the two with seemingly effortless finesse. One such act are Last Hyena, with their debut LP How Soon Is Mars? standing as a celestially imaginative exploration of the two genres.

Belonging to the perpetually buzzing beehive of fermented creativity that is the alternative Bristol scene, Last Hyena are a product of a localised demographic, one devoted to purposefully labyrinthine musical endeavours. As longtime fans will know, their craft exists as twisting, unchained and often confusing experiments in instrumental prog madness, with their two EP’s thus far being the subject of both head scratching amusement and bemused smiles from their peers. Yet, what makes their experiments in noise successful is their collective ambition, charm and reckless experimental abandon. There’s both cheek and charm in their craft, something often missing from some of their more po-faced peers. The aforementioned EP’s delivered these qualities in raw, albite unpolished abundance, but with their new endeavour, the edges have been trimmed, the abrasion sanded and visual creativity enhanced; all without losing any of their core musical components.

Brought to life by UK prog chief Tom Peters (Cleft, Body Hound, Alpha Male Tea Party), How Soon Is Mars? is a hyper-excitable and wild-eyed childlike mass of noise that has it’s inspired eyes aimed skywards. Against a vibrant interstellar aesthetic, the trio breaststroke within the shimmering waters of bottomless prog, bending and weaving post and math to their will. Previous single and respective opener ‘Where’s Laika?’ introduces such ways with experimental force substituting docile pleasantries, with the track flowing between star dotted post-rock space, burning discordance and jolting algorithmic fretwork. Even before the mind truly has time to comprehend this, the subsequent ‘Terra’ bolts upright sounding not fully unlike a sugar-driven TTNG being pushed to their upper limits.

Granted, this may seem overwhelming; occasionally it is. But what makes this ultimately work is the group’s impeccable understanding of space within their work. Even with shuddering and convulsing fretwork chaptering the record – such as in the case of the deranged yet lovable ‘Doctorpuss’ - the delicate breathing space in the album allows all the myriad of ideas weaved in to be fully realised and proofed. ‘You Still Look Tired’ and the dizzying spirals of ‘Programmed To Lose’ see the band incarnating galaxy wide soundscapes of delicate post-rock wonderment prior to inhabiting them with fantastically organic math-rock life that naturally breathes with improvisational jazz fluidity. This is what truly what makes this record work so well - instead of fusing math and post, the two inhabit the same space together in harmony without being fused together in a Chronenberg-like ordeal.

This is simply a record of loose freedom that has it’s feet planted in the earth of homegrown creativity whilst reaching into the limitless skies of progressive freedom. There’s a tangible sense of childlike awe and adolescent energy flowing throughout these exercises of unchained musical freedoms, and whilst many will try and compare this to a plethora of other releases, Last Hyena have really carved out a niche of their own with this record. Even if the closer ‘I’m Supposed To Be The Good One’ does sound like a teenage fist fight between Frank Zappa and Mogwai for the affection of Delta Sleep, by the time the end rolls about it’s inevitable many will dive back into this record once more with the same enthusiastic abandon this album provides.

Score: 8/10

How Soon Is Mars? is released April 30th via Stereobrain Records.

Pre-order the record here.