Right! So here’s the plan(s), boys. We’re going to infiltrate the listener through a nice subtle interplay between string quarter classical sensibilities and just enough-but-not-quite dissonant and almost djent-worthy time signature playoffs. Keep them off guard, and let the sweeping melodies do the rest.
I’m not sure if that was their intention exactly, but Sydneys’ string-quartet-and-acoustic-guitarist troupe Hinterlandt have offered up a three-song (‘Plan A’, ‘Plan B’ and ‘Plan C’, to be precise) plan of… well, to be honest I don’t think they’re on the offensive, here. But they’re definitely offering something nice and palatable with an almost imperceptibly small taste of strangeness to intrigue the listener. Here’s a play-by-play of how it pans out:
Beginning with almost funky acoustic chords, clearly strummed with organic feel and not sticking to a tight production schedule. this Plan is laid out quiet simplistically. Then we have the crawling cello lines and subtle violins in here and there. The scene is set for the violins pan in from the left and right, darting in and out view in a melodic but almost off-putting rapid fashion. Cello lines weave through the tapestry, which almost sounds like a short classic thrash power chord riff. Then everyone slides off and into different directions.
Moments of familiar saccharine classical sweetness, like those you’d hear in a rose garden, only so slightly punctuated by off-kilter acoustics and violin plucking. Tip-toeing around one another, with slides slightly throwing you off balance. It’s almost like being coaxed into walking down a forest path with very uneven ground, rumbles in the distance on a sunny day.
Then, oh Gods, what is that?! A darkened, low outro, frenetic and noisy, picking and scraping. Hmmm. Maybe their intentions weren’t so noble after all. Is this part of the plan? Let’s see.
Plan B begins with a subtle interplay between violins, cello and guitar against one another, in a way which incites a feeling of mixing chords in a deck of cards.
Violins slightly atonal between some little guitar arpeggios, we are treated to some very bright, nice solos and stop/start sections. It is clear Hinterlandt give some small nod to more mathematical musical contemporaries. If Animals as Leaders is a confusing drunken brawl in the streets of instrumental music, these guys are the red wine with an aftertaste you’re not really sure was meant to be bitter, savoury or sour. To add to the confusion, we’re treating to an equally swee-and-sour trumpet which adds a small noir feel before plodding out.
Palm muting and plucking of the violins and guitars amongst a warmly produced, organic scenario, and now we’re offered imagery similar to sneaking through an urban or natural setting. Before we’ve had a chance to reflect on this new direction, more urgent sounding trade-offs fire in quick succession, sounding heavy, but only heavy as an exercise in contrast and tempo. This is then sharply scraped away with pick slides and atonal thumping, as though to erase your savour fully in preparation for the third, or alternative ‘Plan C’.
The final plan begins with some straight out unabashed bopping and taunting of time signatures, complete with very pointed violin trills. Almost like a string quartet Meshuggah.
Then, what is definitely my favourite ‘riff’ of the album thus far kicks down the door unannounced. Bouncing and bending, off-time and swaggering, drunkenly. You can almost feeling the musicians eyeing each other off, nodding to bring in that warping riff in a thick, visceral use of such diverse instrumental space. Upwards into those lilting harmonies again, with a steady flush of chords and it’s like it never happened.
The catchy and hypnotic (but still just slightly off) riffing relapses, the band building towards crescendo – and breaking it up once more with a delightfully heavenly section, and back comes that triumphant, bright-sounding horn. This could almost be video game music or the march home of our protagonist in a classic movie. Like a gangster mafioso clasping a scotch at his daughters’ wedding, brooding but also enjoying the classical background music.
Back to the almost-djent styled bouncing spiralling riff, which feels like it’s wanting, nay, needing to break into an apex, a zenith. But not quite, the harmonies from before drift down like snow. Descending with a nice final harmonic descent, giving one last nod to that ecliptic riff and sounding out, Hinterlandt depart with as many questions as answers.
Without resorting to Car Bomb level chaos, and refusing to play into classical tropes, this group have delivered a tri-fold plan of attack which leaves you relaxed yet slightly nauseated. Are they playing Good Cop, or Bad Cop? What’s their intention? By the end of ‘Sollbruchstelle’, you still have no idea, and maybe you never will. And maybe some plans are best kept secret.