Meniscus is a post-rock band that hail from Sydney, Australia. Members include Alex O’Toole(Drums), Alison Kerjean (Bass), Daniel Oreskovic (Guitar), and Martin Wong (Visuals). The band formed in 2005 as a trio and have released one EP, Absense of 1, and one LP, War of Currents, prior to Refractions. The trio, minus Wong, create a huge sound with driving bass, almost math-rock style percussion, and shoegazery fuzzed out walls of sound. They are masters of the ebb and flow of composition and really can create expressive pieces that invite the listener into emotive landscapes. They area also able to create complex pieces through the use of percussion, bass, and various guitar lines that play off of one another.
The first minute or so of “Doom” is a subtle, humming guitar drone. Eventually, drums and bass explode into the speakers as the drone keeps floating throughout. The distortion and volume get cranked up at about the 3-minute mark. This is an epic 10:45 track and the emotive movement is precise and the build careful and composed. Eventually, “Doom” allows the listener to breath and a guitar that builds a thread throughout continues to hum and sit in the back ground. The reprieve, however, is short-lived. A timing change occurs and this almost jazzy, metal feel comes into focus with wah-wah giving a slight psychedelic flavor. There is a sophistication, and a unique sound here, that sets Meniscus apart from many of the other derivative post-rock bands on the scene. “Simulation” begins highlighting O’Toole’s percussion work and, let me tell you, he’s a beast. There are some heavy moments in this track but they are juxtaposed by progressive, blissful guitar tones that are very melodic. Also, one must listen closely but there are beautiful drones that play in the spaces to give a fullness and texture to an already complex composition. Kerjean’s bass work really glues all the pieces together and her tones are incredibly deep throated. However, they never overpower the rest of the pieces in the songs.
“Overhang” begins with a very different feel, with bright guitar, clapping sounds, and syncopated drums. Kerjean really takes a bit of a lead here and, again, her tone really fills out the arrangement and allows the guitars to play off one another in high registers to create a wonderful set of textures in the track. Not only do their tones set them apart from other post-rock bands, but their hooks and phrases really do express an erudition that gives them what I would say is the Meniscus sound. Oreskovic’s guitar work is just superb, moving from glittery, spacey tones to deep guttural fuzz and distortion. There is never too much of one or the other. “Fingers” highlights some acoustic work by Orekovic which eventually gives way to distorted guitars soaring over bounding drum and bass. The ebb and flow is perfectly orchestrated, telling musical stories with the use of volume, changes in tempo, and utilizing the tones and textures of different guitars and effect.
“Daturas” has this incredibly patient intro with dreamy guitar that leads into the drums and percussion really filling out the soundscape. This is the shortest piece on the album, clocking in at 5:31, and it’s a refreshing centerpiece, perfectly placed in the track order. Medium tempo and airy in many places, “Daturas” demonstrates that Meniscus can work with subtleness, building beautifully careful sonic landscapes. The climax comes and it is fuller and more rambunctious, but it is short lived, dissipating into a fade out rather quickly. “Head Rush” begins with a drone that almost evokes running water with guitar being picked over it. Sparse percussion mimics another guitar phrasings as another guitar comes into conversation. Then, brief moments of synths and drums punctuate the speakers. The synths have a spacey, almost robotic feel to them. There is a God is an Astronaut feel here and I mean that as a high compliment. The guitars soar, the builds are deep and wide, and the choice of phrasing in the guitar and bass perfection.
Hamster begins as drum and bass heavy with the drums playing a very different time signature. Synths create texture and guitars hum as they begin to make their presence known. The high hat use also gives a different flavor. The guitars build walls of sound as the odd time signature remains underneath. The band eventually gives way to spacey synths. The drums then come into the mix muffled, then clear, and moving from speaker to speaker. This creates this sort of chaotic feel amid the structure. Then the band returns to full volume. Orekovic’s guitar work is to be commended because of his choices. There are some great guitar hooks in this track that really get the composition stuck in your head. “Flux” is the finale to Refractions and is a bright, energetic piece with layers of guitars. This composition is a repetitive piece, playing with the same line over and over with nuances happening around it. Reverb, delay, and fuzz fill this sound scape with vigorous drum and bass really giving the track an urgency. “Flux” gives this feel that the band is rushing to end the album but then they move into quieter moments, dissipating any sense that this all should end. As they approach the last note, the volume fads and guitar hums until there is silence.
Refractions is a clear demonstration that Meniscus isn’t your run of the mill post-rock band. Their compositions are complex, emotive, and sophisticated. Bursts of aggression are tempered with moments of almost shoegazey drones and subtle percussion. If there is any justice in the world, I expect that this band will take their place alongside bands such as Caspian, Red Sparrowes, and Mogwai as one of the greats. If can, grab a copy of Refractions. You won’t be disappointed.