Dysrhythmia marked a creative expansion for the Relapse Records roster, Pretest consisting entirely of instrumentals with no death/grind buzz-saw guitar tones or blastbeats -- or anything too "metal" at all, actually -- in sight. Instead, Dysrhythmia explores vaguely prog avenues lined with jagged, angular Jesus Lizard-esque riffs, odd time signatures, and Sonic Youth-styled dissonance and lyrical guitar doodles; the latter smartly used to draw the listener into a fracas that would otherwise be a cold, detached listening experience. Arrangements usually start off sparse and build to climaxes that are more cerebral than emotional, but engaging nonetheless. The (sort of) Rush-like "Running Shoe of Justice" utilizes jazz-chord voicings and the occasional blast of feedback to reach a logically heavy, but not obvious conclusion -- in fact, most songs on Pretest could be described in such a manner, but thankfully the group's compositions often lie on a solid, complex, rhythmic foundation and a subtle yet bold sense of dynamics (see the sparse harmonic meandering backed by spastic-jazz drum workouts during "Annihilation II"). Producer/engineer Steve Albini -- who has publicly expressed his distaste for anything stereotypically heavy metal -- downplays any indulgent prog tendencies the band may possess, lending Dysrhythmia a grit and clarity not found on the group's previous self-released albums. Praise the band for falling into the cracks between any genre slabs, but ultimately, Dysrhythmia will appeal to a select audience: musician-types and indie rockers weaned on Mogwai and June of 44 may find something of value here, or possibly fans of Neurosis' later work, or the herky-jerky fundamentals of the Dillinger Escape Plan; assuming they're patient enough to sift through a handful of off-kilter instrumentals. It's a bit of a challenge, but spending a fair amount of time with Pretest isn't without its rewards.
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AllMusic Review by John Serba