Hailing from the sleepy, made-up sounding Shutesbury, Mass. (population: 1,800), the electro-rock (more like rock-electro) Mobius Band have taken a longish path to Urban Outfitters compilation (don’t hate!) buzz band-dom. But the slow build has given the three-piece time to grow into their taught and confident current incarnation. After three self-released, self-recorded, increasingly impressive EPs over the past three years, the band recently signed with those progressive beatheads at Ghostly International and this five-song EP is the first fruit of what seems like a healthy if unlikely partnership. Ditching the meandering instrumental post-rock and country leanings of past releases, the band has morphed into a trim, fleshy rock’n’blip cyborg made up of bass-pumping blood, muscular guitars, and an ever-handy sampler-and-keyboard pacemaker that keeps normal bodily functions running oh-so smoothly. Near-flawless in its execution, City vs Country is at once traditional and progressive, easy to listen to, and dificult to ignore.
Not just another group of ax-grinding guys dicking around with annoyingly tacked-on “electronic elements,” Mobius Band takes its bleeps seriously and uses them economically and effectively within the intense fabric of their songs. Markedly more precise and three-dimensional than anything they’ve attempted, the added sonic sheen provided by a professional studio and the mixing talents of Interpol associate Peter Katis fits the band like a snug Powerglove and allows them to indulge in wavy headphone-friendly sonic minutiae. The group shows off its new supped-up sound early with “Starts Off With a Bang”, which is actually more of a long, winding fuse than an explosion. Chirpy Morse code quickly gives way to group leader Ben Sterling’s passive vocals. By now, Sterling has learned how to make his near-monotone drone work within his band’s framework as it often adds fragility to the group’s airtight arrangements. “At the start of the century my mind keeps wandering,” he dreamily sings, succumbing to the futuristic Aphex-on-X bounce surrounding him.
“Multiply” slowly creeps to its distorted shoegazer crescendo, picking up all passers-by along the way. “City vs Country”, the most straight-ahead guitar-rocking number, seemingly combines the excitement of new surroundings (two-thirds of the band recently moved to Brooklyn) with the disappointment of an impending break-up through non-linear observations like “The lights on the train flicker off across your face.” The same contradictory emotions pop up on the last and best track, “I Had A Good Year”.
“When life is so good it hurts,” muses Sterling, his somber delivery adding an obvious melancholy undercurrent punctuating the hurt rather than the good. “I will cut you in half and then we’ll see who laughs,” seethes the singer in a rare moment of lyrical clarity, before ringing guitars and panning keyboards take the track into a supersonic stratosphere. Rumbling underneath, crack drummer Noam Schatz’s crunching, processed percussion seamlessly morph into a very earthly pummel by the track’s crushing denouement.
On City vs Country, Mobius Band temper the downcast urban hum of studio mates Interpol with a bit of Postal Service machine-bop glee. The newly honed aural slickness only adds to this developing band’s potential appeal and instead of getting lost inside a real studio, this rock-electro outfit has found itself—just in time for their first long-player.