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Mute Era

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MUTE ERA
Light Dreams of Darkness/Night Dreams of Day
self-released

After four years spent making rounds, Minneapolis two-piece Mute Era at last have a release to decorate their inestimable rep. Two new companion EPs, Light Dreams of Darkness and Night Dreams of Day, function like Rorschach folds in which you can find your meanings wherever you please. Though the albums sometimes lack the thematic arc that companion releases can demand, they never tread water and the tracks are spare, infectious art-rock dazzlers that scatter across the discs like viral spores.

Light Dreams of Darkness is the more sensible sibling. "Only Voice," its moody opener, is built like a Zen temple of looped "oohs" that are part tribal chant and part house-party whoop. Jessica Driscoll's drumming, as focusing as a metronome stroke, imparts upon Sho Nikaido's multistory guitar harmony the same anchoring pound that gave bygone art-house punks like ESG their charm. Alike in spirit, "Secretly Wished I Could..." further showcases Nikaido's skill at the pedal bay, and "Quarter Moon" revels as an over-amped, adrenal rocker in which one can feel Driscoll's drum monitors redlining.

The bigger surprises come in Night Dreams of Day. "The Way She Played Back" is the most throttling of the offered tracks, a sweaty punk chunk that boils away to a bone by song's end. "I Say It Again" finds Nikaido in a pastoral, acoustic pose, his voice occupying Driscoll's tambourine like a prairie haunt. But the most startling turns lie in "I Will Take My Time", a patchwork of fraying wires, half-present vocals, and wildly reverberating guitars that are in earshot of structure, but only barely. The song lurches through its four and a half minutes in a menacing stagger, and the track is an unbroken dog—scary, hostile, and fascinating.

Lovingly hand-numbered, the albums are clearly labors of patience, and a listen will require some reciprocity. Adaptation through repetition is Mute Era's stock in trade, and each song is a musical model of natural selection—within each successive bar, bridge, and progression exist favorable mutations passed on by the last. Wherever you drop the needle on these EPs, expect to end up a long way from where you began.