Ann Arbor, MI's A Working Model are a restless quartet. Though their motto has been: "Taking the progress out of progressive since 2001!," and their second album was titled An End, this act consistently looks toward reinventing itself by the way it actually makes its music. III is, in its way, as different from An End as it was from its debut EP. The quartet -- Tim Lawrence, bass; Chris Lawrence, vocals, guitars, engineer; Rob Logan, drums; Kenny Mis, guitars -- took its enormous wall of propellant rockist power riffs and dynamic changes and morphed it into something far more beautiful, flowing, and almost elegant, even as its sense drama and edginess is heightened and exponentially more kinetic in sound and presentation.
Certainly part of this was due to learning more about the recording process to be sure, but the immediacy that crackles from these seven songs (that total just over 35 minutes) is quite startling; it resembles something more akin to the band's live sound. The interplay between the rhythm section and the two guitars is knotty, Logan's drums are an enormous force -- and he doesn't mess about with monotony, though he certainly believes in circular rhythm. On "Sobotka" Tim Lawrence's bassline is a guide. It points at changes in tension, key, and dynamic. Here the guitars utilize the steadiness of his bassline to prefigure both riffs and counterpoint with a near math rock precision and the cut functions as a kind of suite. Elsewhere, such as on "Day of the Animals," with its sense of languid movement, overtone guitar melodies crisscross with one another on bass; Logan's drumming delineates their different aspects in shifting accents. Chris Lawrence's singing here is more disciplined, confident, and soaring than ever before. It is also emotionally resonant. The swelling rhythm section and guitar touch on something that the band Growing might attempt, but the music here is heaver, less tentative, and more directly melodic than merely repetitively hypnotic. On other tracks, such as "Deterrence," Chris Lawrence uses just enough vocal power to get his words above the swelling instruments. The popping bassline finds a post-punk groove as he and Mis push their six-strings into a kind of conflicting pulse. Logan is the one who instigates this with his tom-toms and kick drum. "Game Over Man" feels, initially at least, like a continuation as the guitars hang back a bit letting Logan break the beat, ushering in a new statement where bassist Lawrence finds a thrumming groove. Then the guitars explode in a squall of overdriven modal riffing. The humorously titled "HanValen" uses controlled distortion and plodding tempo to begin its meander through a shimmering songlike groove that may be laid-back and melodic, but menace is just under its surface as the tune unfolds. The metallic beauty in Mis' playing melds Hendrixian spaciness, Tony Iommian distortion, Jimmy Page's rhythmic sensibility, Eddie Van Halen (of the Fair Warning period), drone technique, and Bob Mould's sense of overtone force. The band simply lets it move and twist; it frames him with restraint and accented majesty creating a gorgeous closing number
The sound on III places A Working Model in a new space developmentally: while the D.I.Y. aesthetic has governed everything they've done and forced the creation of its own sound, this set also allows the quartet a certain musical freedom to reference other music while relaxing into that wall of glorious racket it's trademarked. The highest compliment to this album is simply that in five years this recording will sound as inspired and accessibly unusual as it does now.