November 13, 2017

Test Spin: Paranoid Void — Literary Math

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When I first listened to all-female Japanese trio Paranoid Void, I learned of the existence of math rock. At first, it did not sound fun, as anything having to do with math is just not fun to me. Math rock, though, is a genre holding some similarities to post-rock that utilizes unconventional time signatures, rhythms and dissonance. Paranoid Void, composed of members Meguri, Yu-Ki and Mipow, is unlike most music I have listened to, and it became evident that the trio put endless effort into their first full-length album, Literary Math.

On Paranoid Void’s website, the band describes Literary Math as a “three-dimensional composition of the sound and words that the female sensibility unique to women creates.” Additionally, on the album’s release date, the band published a blog entry explaining what they wanted the album to convey. The blog entry discusses the importance of the first, second, third, fifth and 10th tracks and the way that they build the theme of Literary Math. The first track, “Dog of Karma,” has a music video that further solidifies the ideas that the band wrote in the blog. The song starts out with a guitar-heavy introduction, then moves into a pattern that is repeated, then another, much like a loop, agreeing with the blog entry. “Dog of Karma” is meant to portray the everyday loops that people can never escape because everyone is always subconsciously seeking something that they’re missing, always incomplete.

The second track on the album, “The Sky of Foam, the Eternal City,” is a gentle, comfortable melody that also loops, but in a reassuring way. Here, the listener is supposed to picture what the title describes. The music video is a simple animation of an eye opening and closing with a floating city inside it. The animation moves smoothly along with the song, focusing on the city and creating a soothing, satisfying experience that makes one wish the music and video would not end so soon. Paranoid Void creates their own world in this track, which can either be listened to intently or simply function as laidback background music.

Paranoid Void seeks to paint the world with sounds, and the track that they felt best accomplished this is the album’s third track, “All in the World.” The song, which has no lyrics, is filled with gentle guitar sounds and patterns that are carefully put together both melodically and rhythmically. This carefully-crafted song is able to both create imagery and induce effects that most music cannot, something that is especially hard to find in instrumental music. Musicians often depend on lyrics to carry themes and ideas, but Literary Math manages to create meaning without relying on lyrics.

The fifth track, “The Way of Correctness,” features more lyrics than previous tracks. It opens with the guitar playing a pattern to the rhythm of the almost-spoken lyrics, but then becomes a driving, upbeat song. When lyrics are introduced again, they are once more not sung, but still follow the music’s rhythm. The song almost feels saturated and too busy to listen to, yet it’s difficult to stop listening due to the constant introduction of intriguing musical patterns that latch on to the listener.

The only track on the album with an English title, “null,” is purely instrumental, whereas most of the other tracks featured vocals, even if there were no lyrics. In their blog entry, the band mentions that they felt this track was much like a game in which a collection of items must be picked up while trying to avoid obstacles. The resulting sense of unity is meant to represent a person, as that is what all people are. Much like the fifth track, “null” feels saturated and slightly frantic, but not only is it intentional — the music is coherent, enjoyable and portrays the band’s thematic ideas.

Literary Math is exactly what the title makes it out to be: math. Paranoid Void has taken numbers and calculations and arranged them in such a way that there are emotions attached to the patterns and motifs in their music. While patterns and motifs often become tiresome to listen to, Paranoid Void has created interesting musical themes that fit together like a puzzle and can often be catchy, something rarely seen in instrumental music and especially math rock.

Viri Garcia is a sophomore in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].