Flux Amuck: The Alternate, By Jeremy Johnson
Updated: Aug 10, 2019
How has this band not been around for 30 years, I do not know. But that's what they play like- not a simple task considering the sheer imminence of the ambition. What makes Flux Amuck's debut disc so goddamned good? WELL...
It’s like swan diving into a meteor storm; there’s so much happening- from all directions. Flux Amuck’s debut album, Alternate, is the juggernaut result of more than a year’s worth of patience, creative sweat, and the ripping and re-mending of every musical muscle in the cosmic anatomy. This album has been and will continue to be described in so many ways, because it is just SO MANY THINGS.
It’s like a spacier, doomier Primus. (Not spicier. Spacier. Although, come to think of it, it gets pretty spicy, too).
Tonally, it’s like being trapped in a mid-flight space vessel with a mad scientist as his creations are eating him alive. It is clear that scrawled in Flux Amuck’s DNA was the mantra, “NO RULES.” It’s fucking chaos. But, significantly synchronized chaos.
It’s like a groovier, swampier post-apocalypto Dillinger Escape Plan.
So what the fuck is specifically going on here? Well, basslines. Baselines were the rudimentary seed from which Flux Amuck and Alternate bloomed. Like, WEIRD bass lines though. Bouncy, erratic, manic as hell, the basslines were a perfect foundation on which to build a no-rules edifice of musical chaos. From the basslines, bassist and founder, Toby Wandel sought out nimble-taloned 8-string guitarist Mark Rohrbaugh. After looking through the lines, Rohrbaugh’s initial reaction was, “Uh… What should… Are you sure?” Wandel was sure. “All right. What mode?” and the master string-raker got to work hanging his own skin on the bones.
It’s like a sci-fi circus version of Tool- no… Puscifer.
The Alternate’s momentum and frenetic energy keeps things kinetic. There’s not a second of filler or unused space on the entire album. Although the timings are bizarre and ever-changing, it’s never unintentionally jarring. Every song has an identity, and so does the album as one whole self. Even the connective tissue is well-considered and beautifully designed. Most notably the cello transition from the hook track, Pretorius into Sci-Fi Western, kind of Flux Amuck’s mission statement song, in which Sam Taulborg screams (at probably me), “IT IS SOMETHING YOU CAN’T DESCRIBE, WHEN WILL YOU ADMIT THIS!?” And Rohrbaugh summons a riff from the ether that perforates your soul and scrambles your DNA.
Then after a beat, that smarmy bassline for Caterpillar kicks in. It’s funky and slimy, and so, so sticky. The bass takes shotgun again on the next song, Thanks We’ll Call You, with a fast and ambling riff over [singer’s] devil-deep snarl. Standard of Excellence is a vortex of dread which eventually storms into all-out panic. This is due to the escalation of the tempo and complexity of the arrangements as it builds upon itself- A classic trick to exude an air of paranoia used here to perfection. Drummer, Geoffrey Marshall has to have the brain of a math-demon-possessed space robot to keep it all together, which he does perfectly. Like Hall of the Mountain King on LSD. Marshall kicks insurmountable ass on the track, Debris.
Jesse Otterson is Flux Amuck’s secret weapon. In a band with such a sprawling sound-scape, it’s key to have a shapeshifter in your campaign. Otterson’s arsenal includes, but is not limited to, keyboards, guitars, a banjo, a cello, (holy shit) theremin, and a kalimba (look it up). Whenever you hear a textural flare fill in the gaps between the harmonic arteries of each song, that would be Jesse Otterson, being instrumental morph wizard.
Alternate is cozy in common rotation on my playlists. With the collective talent, patience, and positivity, Flux Amuck is in for a long ride. It feels like Alternate has only scratched the chaotic surface of their potential. I, for one, can’t wait to see where this goes.
Pick up The Alternate on bandcamp.com, Spotify, or iTunes. Stay tuned for the tour dates and see them more than once. The show is never the same.
It’s like if Rick and Morty made a Mastodon album.