by Kris Handel (@khandel84)
Mating Surfaces is the second full length release, and first for Kill Rock Stars, as well as a couple of EPs from Portland, OR band Lithics. The band like to keep a little bit of a mystery to themselves as they have very little online presence outside of some local independent articles, and that carries over to the music as well. There are many shifts and turns that can happen at the drop of a hat and every once in while vocalist/guitarist Aubrey Hornor’s usually detached vocals are sprinkled with emotions. There are some touches of some classic post-punk influencers like early Fall and Sonic Youth, but more-so in the sense of some fearless and wild abandonment in the name of experimentation.
The record starts off firing on all cylinders with “Excuse Generator” with stuttering rhythm guitar and slicing staccato leads piercing through a strong and danceable rhythm section. Hornor’s slight sneer in the vocal performance is quite forceful as she repeatedly asks “Can I be myself?” rhetorically. “When Will I Die” is propelled by a bouncing bassline that is right up front pushing the tempo along only to occasionally be pierced by sharp trebly guitar slicing through until imploding towards the end of the song. “Specs” is all angular and jutting in it’s approach and playful time signatures and Hornor's vocals do a great job of furthering the tension that is taking place between all the instruments and outside forces.
“Glass of Water” is full of wildly brittle guitar leads and some strong and forceful drum-fills that are a little reminiscent of fellow West Coast garage art punk band The Intelligence. “Home” is a track filled with some quite intense anxiety exemplified by it’s fast tempo and trebly leads as Hornor somewhat frantically intones “Home is anywhere you are”. "Home" is definitely a standout on this release due to its claustrophobic soundscape fueled intensity and its exploration of the feeling of never really belonging and the isolation that goes hand in hand. “Dancing Guy” bookends the record in appropriate fashion with it’s unusually danceable discordance that eventually collapses into itself.
Mating Surfaces is a record that is filled with tension and walks on the border of full on breakdown that it never really succumbs to until it’s fitting ending. For a record that plays on jittery soundscapes and emotions it can be a quite intense listening experience as there isn’t much of a let up track to track. Hornor and company have made a record that is also full of contrasts between its sparse staccato guitar attacks and some interesting interplay between the rhythm section throughout its 28 minutes. Even though the tone of the record is one of intensity and anxiety, it is very compelling throughout and it is a record that deserves repeated listens and the ears of anyone looking for something new and exciting. It would be in a lot of people’s self-interest to seek Lithics out for themselves and indulge in the experience.