The one word to me that best describes San Francisco noise-punk trio Numbers is “minimalist.” The band excels within tight constraints, limiting their range toward the baritone, as Eric Landmark’s buzzy Moog synthesizer and Dave Broekema’s choppy guitar riffs stay well toward the low end. In fact, only Indra Dunis’ android vocals ever break that chosen octave, as her yelps are much higher, though not startlingly so. For most bands, this would be a hindrance, as few bands strive to stay within a narrow range of sound. But for Numbers, it works. And what’s more, it actually creates a well-established identity for them. And while one would expect some level of change on their latest full-length, We’re Animals, it’s not so drastic that anyone who had heard them before couldn’t recognize them in their current form.
On We’re Animals, Numbers doesn’t go into unnervingly shrill high-end, but they have expanded their sound past spastic synth-punk into prog and Krautrock-influenced art punk. What’s particularly noticeable, first off, is their song lengths, currently treading well past two minutes, sometimes three and four. For a comparison, look at In My Mind All the Time, whose average running length was about 1:40. We’re Animals, however, sounds much less like an ADD-riddled band of punk kids and more like the work of an accomplished rock band, albeit one settled into a low-end groove.
There are some remnants of the spazz punk of past, if the title “The Fuck You Garage,” wasn’t telling enough, but more impressive moments of rock `n’ roll power burst throughout the length of the album. “Beast Life,” the album’s opener, pulsates and throbs with buzzing synth bass notes and chunky, distorted power chords. Dunis’ voice here sounds its most cybernetic, hooting like Laurie Anderson in “O Superman.” “Desert Life,” however, chugs along like middle-period Sonic Youth splashed with the beastly roar of Sabbath. “Black Crow Heart of Gold” is a more slowly plodding animal, but much more spacious and musically interesting than the band’s earlier, well-worn path of shrieks and beeps.
In one of the band’s surprising moves, riffs and drums are abandoned altogether for the more ambient rumblings and soundscapes on the oddly serene “Can’t Remember.” And “Solid Pleasure,” after a long intro complete with seemingly endless Moog buzzes, returns to the quasi-Sonic Youth sound, marrying the discordant with the graceful and lovely. “Crows” is possibly the most spastic moment on We’re Animals, but gosh darn it, it’s nice to hear something familiar, and here, it totally rocks.
We’re Animals shows a surprising amount of growth on the part of Numbers. Though it may not stray far from their chosen two octaves, it’s an amazingly expansive heavy rock record from a band previously known for short bursts of fun, hyperactive punk. It appears that they are growing as a band, and, by the next album, anything could happen. They could even be using the top two strings.
Oneida – Each One Teach One
The Planet The – You Absorb My Vision
Erase Errata – At Crystal Palace
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.