31 Knots: Worried Well (Polyvinyl)
So tight that merely listening to it raises shoulders to ears, Portland trio 31 Knots mixes the dissonance of Sonic Youth, the time signatures and stop-start changes of Fugazi, and the deconstructed funk of Talking Heads to create a nervous, hysterical din that reads like Michel Foucault having a nervous breakdown.
The band’s work is an exhilarating mess of short lines and severe angles, tracing the journey of some sentient machine exploring lonely frontiers, from epiphany to disappointment to tantrum, seeking solace in a universe as ill equipped to offer solace as the machine is to receive it.
Although everything in the above paragraph is still true, everything has changed on Worried Well. If the rhythmic chicanery and atonal tension of previous releases is fully in evidence, it only lays a foundation for a newfound looseness.
The improvisational acuity and theatricality of 31 Knots’ live shows had always eluded the band in the studio. Apparently, those days are over. A sound that was once pure convulsion has evolved into something more jaunty and playful, though no less angry or haughty for it.
Worried Well simultaneously emerges from the band’s previous work as the next logical step and turns the old aesthetics on their head. It’s like Sturm and Drang emerging from the Enlightenment.
Though a lot of younger bands borrow liberally from ’80s post-punk, 31 Knots has taken the genre so far from the source as to become something genuinely its own. And though the songs on Worried Well are distinctly 31 Knots songs, they’re only barely so.
The sentient machine that is 31 Knots, always so adept at exploring alien territory, has finally discovered life. It’s not sure how it feels about it, but it’s more than happy to share the shock of its recognition.
– Lyam White