In eponymous fashion, Frameworks’ latest truly smothers the listener, yet stops just short of suffocation. Juxtaposed to their Topshelf debut Loom, Smother engages its audience from all angles, filling in the gaps the band’s previous record could not. The drums are tighter, the arrangements are denser, and the attention to detail is microscopic in comparison. This time around, Frameworks salvage scrappiness through a post-hardcore refinery with an even keener sense of pop appeal. The resulting Smother is a statement from one of the most notable melodic hardcore acts on the rise.
One of Frameworks’ most obvious contemporaries are former Deathwish labelmates Touché Amoré, a band responsible for weaving highly introspective lyrics into the abrasive sonic spectrum of the post-hardcore genre. While Frameworks may closely resemble Touché, among other musical peers like My Heart to Joy and State Faults, the Gainsville, Florida outfit strives to transcend the boundaries of their musical classification. Matt McClellan’s distinct production values on Smother resemble the hypnogogic haze Jack Shirley once shrouded over Deafheaven’s Sunbather, creating an atmospheric coherence across each of the eleven tracks.
From start to finish, Smother is a fierce exercise of crushing intensity, as each song treks through instants of sparse, subdued moments of melodically threaded guitars, only to be broken down by the colossal percussion from drummer Matthew Homer. “Purge” and the title track specifically use this technique, shaping wave-like crescendos sparked by the onset of a pulverizing combination of drum and bass. Feedback rings and “bassman” Wyatt Rajer plugs away while vocalist Luke Pate rips through each track with throat shredding purges of emotion. The latter half of “Tinnitus” employs an accompanying guitar reminiscent of The Monitor-era Titus Andronicus solos or the unmistakable lead tone of The Thermals’ “Pillar of Salt” riff.
For a release as tenacious as Smother, curbing the intensity can easily modify the flow of the album, allowing listeners the opportunity to recuperate amidst the madness. “Interlude” marks that period of rest on the album, akin to Crash of Rhinos’ “Everything Is” and “The Reason I Took So Long,” off of 2013’s Knots. But where Frameworks’ former Deathwish labelmates elegantly take advantage of brief intermission, the band’s instrumental moment of pause doesn’t necessarily evolve or establish itself as a distinct part of Smother’s whole. The track becomes lost in the fray, serving as a dry prelude to “Trite,” one of the more initially forgettable songs on the album.
On their sophomore release, Frameworks integrate a newfound pop sensibility as foreshadowed by their Time Spent EP released earlier this year. Penultimate “Tangled” is one of Smother’s highlight tracks, containing first-rate earworming junctures off the album. Written in a major tuning, the song is among the most resonantly optimistic pieces Frameworks have composed to date, and perhaps the most naturally occurring; the song was written the night before Smother’s recording process was finished. Frontman Luke Pate cites the inspiration for “Tangled” stemming from his overthinking, quoting Seneca the Younger’s thoughts on self-guilt and regret. Reflective of the rest of the album, the finished product of “Tangled” was completely organic. For Frameworks, Smother marks a newfound sense of comfortability for the band as musicians, and as a precursor for exciting projects to come.