Another reason to see Meshuggah on Friday: Intronaut's heavy space prog

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Intronaut never step in the same Los Angeles River twice.
  • Niky Dogatzis
  • Intronaut never step in the same Los Angeles River twice.
I have a four-story nerd boner for Meshuggah, and I've never tried to hide it: I worked myself up into a proper lather over their previous Chicago show, and later declared it one of my five favorite live metal experiences of 2012. So I'm not exactly on the fence about whether to recommend their Friday concert at the House of Blues, even though front man Jens Kidman has been fighting an ugly flu (for at least one show last week he was replaced by a propped-up inflatable doll wearing a cutout of his face while the band played along to prerecorded vocal tracks).

But as it so happens, I have a bonus reason to tell you to go: Los Angeles inner-space prog voyagers Intronaut play first, supporting the forthcoming Habitual Levitations (Instilling Words With Tones), due March 19 on Century Media.

I'll be honest: Until this album, my only exposure to the band was Jesu's 2007 set opening for Isis at Metro, where Intronaut drummer Danny Walker filled in for Ted Parsons. At the time I thought, "Yeesh, this guy's style is way too tense and busy and complicated for Jesu. This sucks." But in Intronaut, where Walker's playing fits, it's flat-out amazing: intricate, fluid, and dazzlingly creative. He's far and away my favorite thing about their music. I mean, this guy can make five-based meters rock, which is like dancing with somebody who's got three legs.

The cover art for the seven-inch of Milk Leg. You want to click on this to enlarge it.
  • The cover for the seven-inch of "Milk Leg." You want to click on this to enlarge it.
If the typical Meshuggah song is an implacable slate-gray alien engine, then an Intronaut tune is more like a cryptic artifact that a benign extraterrestrial race has left for us to puzzle over. OK, so I'm not the biggest fan of the clean vocals—they often sound mushy and airy, and there are plenty of them—and the bass tone sometimes gives off a whiff of jazz fusion. But the band packs a confounding amount of rhythmic information into its riffs, often by superimposing several distinct meters—half a dozen listens weren't enough for me to parse the phasing in "Killing Birds With Stones," and I'm pretty good at counting. Better yet, Intronaut executes these clockwork convolutions without sacrificing groove and swing. The complex patterns overlap like the tumbling transparent jewels in a kaleidoscope, and they can be just as engrossing.

So far the band has teased two tracks from Habitual Levitations, and the first, "Milk Leg," is also being released as a vinyl single. The best bit in this one, if you ask me, is when the chugging guitars ping-pong between stereo channels against a jaunty 5/8 beat, interrupted by chattering breakdowns that I think are alternately 12 and 15 pulses long (though I'd prefer not to be quoted on that).

The other track, "The Welding," appears to be exclusive to Pitchfork for the time being, but it's worth the click. The guys at MetalSucks think the dissonant guitar squawks in the first few seconds are an homage to the Meshuggah oldie "Future Breed Machine," but I'm not so sure. For me, the gnashing, sludgy riff that introduces itself at 0:48 sells the song single-handedly.

Friday's show starts pretty early—doors are at six, and even though the House of Blues website says the show is at seven, I wouldn't be surprised if Intronaut hits the stage before that.

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