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There’s nothing uncomfortable on Everything in Parallel, the first full-length from Buildings. The D.C. trio takes what it likes from prog, punk, and metal and plays as if it’s trying to keep pace with a pleasingly brisk video game. The forward motion is never disorienting or exhausting, and the musical ideas are rarely oblique. Rhythms almost always roll upward and onward. Clusters of guitar and bass notes collect in rewarding ways. The human touch is ever-present.
In other words, if Buildings has anything, it has chops—enough to construct six-minute instrumentals that seem to go by in about half that time. Of course, that’s nothing unique—Don Caballero is the example that comes to mind—so why does Everything in Parallel seem relatively original, anyway? It’s probably the optimism. Guitarist Collin Crowe, drummer David Rjich, and bassist Nick McCarthy are obviously schooled in the ways of math rock and post-rock (their 2009 debut EP, Endless, was a bit more techy), but Everything in Parallel seems to reject the idea that smart-guy music has to take a skeptical, anxious, or sideways view of the future.
It’s adventure music, then, and the escapades have more in common with idealistic sci-fi—Asimov, Clarke, Rodenberry—than with Blade Runner. One song, “The World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky,” even takes its name from an original-run Star Trek episode. Although it’s the slowest track on Everything in Parallel, it builds to a hopeful climax as Rjich plays powerful rolls behind Crowe’s swelling riffs. (The Star Trek episode works out fine, too. Bones gets cured of a disease and an asteroid colony is freed to find its promised land.)
On songs with more velocity, the band puts a premium on sounding straight-up epic, even if the titles seem to be overtly nerdy or deliberately insular references. “Zyklus” (“cycle” in German) may or may not be a nod to a Karlheinz Stockhausen composition of the same name; the Buildings song takes a firm beat and layers it with propulsive guitar and bass patterns. Where a band like Explosions in the Sky might deploy those elements as a platform for tension and release (or maybe sentimentality), Buildings just looks to go, go, go.
Of course, parts of Everything in Parallel do have a symphonic air; Crowe created a guitar orchestra for a one-off at DC9 opening for Lightning Bolt a couple of years ago, and his riffs in Buildings are capable of that kind of scale-up. Likewise, McCarthy tends to bring the drama, emphasizing the first notes of phrases and not shying away from fretwork. Album-opener “Upward Through Ever-Expanding Light” (which has plucked guitar figures that build toward a Viking-sized metallic crescendo followed by a shimmering coda) and the geometrically named “Tessellations” (a rock-for-rock’s-sake track that probably could be arranged for string instruments without much hassle) are the best examples.
It helps that Buildings has a guitar-loving producer, D.C.’s Devin Ocampo, whose own plural-noun band, Medications, sounds similarly sweeping at times. The mix on Everything in Parallel has the drums at the center and slightly in the distance, with the bass closer in the foreground and the guitars occupying much of the remaining space. It’s an experience, not an assault—a ride, not a psych-out. Buildings is known for playing in front of film collages; with performances like this, just the music is enough. —Joe Warminsky
Buildings, Imperial China, Protect-U, and Cigarette perform at Black Cat Saturday at 9 p.m.