31Knots – Talk Like Blood

31Knots
Talk Like Blood

Now on its third full-length album (and something closer to fifth or sixth release in total), Portland’s 31Knots continue to hone their unique blend of highly technical and original post-hardcore sound. Talk Like Blood, the band’s first release for Polyvinyl, features three artists at the top of their game.

Joe Haege’s unique vocal range – at times sounding sung in a speaking kind of way – provides a grounding for this trio’s absolutely stellar instrumentation. Even a quick listen to 31Knots will reveal the tight rhythms, the rich bass, the edgy yet rock-solid guitar riffing. The band acknowledges its desire to emulate classical and jazz musicians as well as the forerunners of indie rock. But while fans and critics marvel at the artists’ ability with their instruments, the band willingly point to the jazzy reaching and progressive style in the songs’ imperfections.

Opener “City of Dust” sounds more like an intro, with a called-out introduction dedicating the song and playful instrumentation, before the album really kicks into gear with “Hearsay.” Think Fugazi meets Karate, perhaps, for the song’s unique blend of jazzy hardcore. The bass here is brilliant, and yet for its precisely clean bass and drums, there’s a fuzzy edge to the guitars that provides a striking contrast. Again the bass drives the most song-oriented track here, the intense but brief “Thousand Wars” that highlights how well Haege can sing as well as speak/sing.

On the band’s most original songs, the pure brilliance of these musicians shines. “Institution Imperfected” flows like a creative prog-rock work, while it flows right into the almost jaw-dropping guitar-driven post-rock sound of “Chain Reaction.” The guitar riffs on “A Void Employs a Kiss” are right out of classic rock, even while the song structure is currently far more progressive. On the title track, with its fiery riffs and urgent percussion, I’m reminded of Aereogramme for their experimental post-hardcore sound. The rhythm section truly drives the moody “Busy is Bold,” and again I’m in awe of how proper mixing can put such perfect focus on a talented bassist. Electronic flourishes provide the framework for the intriguing closing track, “Impromptu Disproving.”

31Knots found a fitting home on Polyvinyl, a label that showed it’s willing to experiment with artists whose talent is quickly evident. This may be the most tight and talented band to take its music into the post-hardcore indie-rock realm. Such talent might be lost without the ability to write such strong and compelling songs as higlight Talk Like Blood. This is a highly recommended album for those who like to seek out the more talented and original artists. Those who want their bands to all sound the same can pass on to the next Saves the Day sound-alikes.