Emerging from the ashes of the Christian band Earthsuit, Mute Math might have you thinking they've gone the post-rock route with "Collapse," the instrumental opener on the band's self-titled debut. With its hypnotic rhythms, droning synths, and extraterrestrial guitar noodlings, the song sounds like a long-lost collaboration between Tortoise and Brian Eno. But once the anthemic, arena-ready rock groove of "Typical" kicks in, with vocalist/keyboardist Paul Meany sounding like a dead ringer for Peter Gabriel fronting U2 at their most accessible, it becomes clear that this quartet has higher aspirations.
The band lists experimental artists such as Björk and DJ Shadow among their influences, and it's the unexpected ways in which those stylistic quirks rear their heads that makes Mute Math more compelling than your typical modern rockers. The musical dialogue between Darren King's off-kilter beats, Roy Mitchell-Cardenas' dub-influenced bassline, and Meany's synth squiggles on "Chaos" recalls the Police circa Reggatta de Blanc, while the spacy trippiness of "Stare at the Sun" comes off like a more radio-friendly outtake from Radiohead's OK Computer. Listening to their debut, you may find yourself wishing Mute Math would take their sound even further to the experimental extreme. For all the band's intriguing stylistic flourishes, at times their poppy sound has more in common with Sting's bland adult contemporary work of recent years, lacking the power and passion that make their best songs explode with energy. But when they do hit their stride, you get the sense that these guys are gonna be huge, even if you wish they'd be willing to toil in experimental obscurity a little while longer.