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Sui generis - 90%

Apteronotus, March 27th, 2013

The wildly outlandish Jute Gyte is an unquestionably unique musical project. With the occasional tremolo picked riffs and glass shards in the throat vocals, it is obvious that Jute Gyte has taken some cues from black metal. However, outside of these superficial aspects of “Discontinuities” there is no sense in trying to think of the album in terms of existing metal sub-genres. It is best to think of the project as extremely experimental. Jute Gyte takes melodies that are so unusual that they almost sound like accidents and layers them with seamless and oddly natural asymmetry. Think of how a flounder twists and flattens as it ages. The end result of Jute Gyte’s twisting asymmetry is alienating yet spectacular, while “Discontinuities” has its flaws, the album clearly illustrates how Jute Gyte is absolutely unforgettable.

Experimentation permeates every moment of “Discontinuities” in ways that are readily apparent yet deep seated. Dissonant waves of jangling jump out one after another, starkly assuring the listener that the full yet unfamiliar sounds will persist, instead of being used to contrast or highlight soothing melodies. Even the calmer and relatively sedate sections of music are still unsettling and weird. This may not sound like anything new on paper, but the use of a 24-tone guitar means that the album uses notes that typically are not used in Western music. To oversimplify, normally on a guitar you can play 12 different notes but this album uses a guitar that allows for 24.

Ultimately, this is just another tool that Jute Gyte uses to create uncomfortable soundscapes. Instead of making everything sound out of tune, the dizzying flurries of notes are jarring, but deliberate. This approach keeps the experimentation from sounding either haphazard or manufactured, and with such an important change to the guitar this success is vital. As past albums have shown, Jute Gyte does not need a 24-tone guitar to make off-kilter music. At its heart, “Discontinuities” is unusual because the overall approach to composition and melody immerse the listener into an alien world. So while Jute Gyte utilizes many tools like a 24-tone guitar or polyrhythms, which do influence the composition, the central focus is still on the music rather than how it was put together.

Despite the overwhelmingly dissonant nature of the music, the mood isn’t nearly as abrasive as one would expect. Outside of the shrieking violence in the vocals, there is a peculiar and even paradoxical calmness in the tone that supersedes the frenzied parts that make up the album. Most of the time this feels like a stalwart sense of direction that guides the notes along the way through all of the chaos and is perfected at the end of “The Haunting Sense...” This is also a key part of how enveloping waves of clashing notes can be. Infrequently however, this quasi-calmness sounds like the cold emotionless side effect of contrived musical ideas. Fortunately, “Discontinuities” mostly maintains a strong direction through the very same technique that helps create some of this paradox of calm chaos. This technique is the careful layering of melodies on top of one another to bury you deep in dissonance.

The typical path in music is to have many parts acting mostly together, as a flock of birds to create a whole, Jute Gyte instead favors more independent parts that coalesce to create a coherent whole. As a key part of this, melodies do not clearly stop and start together. Picture how the molecules of air inside of a jar are always moving around, yet that air never separates into chunks of its component elements. This speaks to the calmness in Jute Gyte’s chaos, as one melody drifts off into bizarre territory another melody is still pulsing or repeating. Each part is moving but the mix as a whole remains consistent. Look to how the persistent drums, plodding rhythm, and bass smooth out the angular melodies in “Supreme Fictions....” and “Acedia.” This is how there is such a sense of both change and stability and it makes the alienation fantastically alluring by forging its own sense of logic and structure.

Fleshed out and detailed with synths and a warm sinuous bass, “Discontinuities” also relies on them to round out the abrasive vocals and angular approach to the guitar and drums. The synthesizer in particular immediately drapes other instruments in its emotional color as when the eerie and light chords of “The Failure of Transmutation” sneak into the mix. Flourishes like this serve to keep the rough and jangling parts within the realm of the unsettling rather than creating more of a harsh atmosphere. Contrary to this, the drums feel bare and mathematical, yet follow the overall emotional intensity of the music enough to make their dryness fade away as an issue.

While the large majority of the focus is on the composition rather than underlying technique, there are times where the album fails on this point. Sometimes the album is overbearingly alienating when the sense of calmness stops being unsettling and starts getting tiresome. Undue repetition is the culprit here, but it is a repetition of patterns rather than particular riffs or notes. The more structural example of this is in “Romanticism Is Ultimately Fatal” where the intro’s predictably declining melody repeats and then later gives way to a chugging riff that similarly rises without going anywhere. Sounding like the musical equivalent of a staircase drawn by M. C. Escher, these parts and the title track “Discontinuities” unfortunately come across more like sketches practicing with a new tool (a 24-tone guitar) than complete pictures. Still, both songs are strong. “Romanticism....” has perhaps the most eerie melody of the album, which is beautifully reinforced by electronic flittering. The minimal instrumentation on “Discontinuities” serves as useful break from the chaotic music, even if it is far too long and repetitive. There, the quiet screaming noises that bookend the song are also an excellent and subtle detail.

With this radical level of experimentation, the degree to which the album feels natural rather than manufactured is impressive. Perhaps it is unsurprising then that Jute Gyte is a one man band, the work of Adam Kalmbach whose experimental tendencies have gone untempered by the compromises that often happen with collaborations. “Discontinuities” is daunting because of its strangeness, its hour long length, and a certain kind of majesty that isn’t immediately obvious or instantly rewarding. Still, the album has lasting power far beyond whatever novelty it provides. Although supremely strange, it is more importantly a great album because of how the immersive layering makes such an alienating experience one that is absolutely worth repeating.

Originally written for: http://theoakconclave.blogspot.com