The thing I’ve always loved about instrumental music—be it post-rock, jazz fusion, electronic, math rock, classical, you name it—is its ability to transport you. So much is left to the imagination; songs are like blank canvases—you can paint your own pictures, work out your own interpretations. Without vocals to narrate the music, you’re left with left with little more that your own preconceived notions of style and genre to guide you. Nothing is overt; it’s all implied innuendo and that’s what I find the most liberating.
Over the course of two EPs, Atlanta’s Sorry No Ferrari have built their reputation as skilled sonic shredders, fusing together elements of indie, math and post-rock to create complex instrumental jams. But while their music has been technically impressive, it has also sometimes meandered aimlessly in search of a distinct melodic focus.
Their debut full-length, however, is an altogether different beast. Ternary attacks in sharp bursts with songs that are continuously branching out, morphing, evolving. It’s a chaotic thrill ride, but it’s so well-constructed, the transitions so seamless, that it never feels cluttered or convoluted. The music is distinctly mathy—full of turn-on-a-dime dynamics and constantly shifting time signatures—but this time around the four-piece has placed a much greater emphasis on melody and theme. They’ve been able to do this in part by adopting a much more ambitious prog rock aesthetic, inserting unexpected interludes, extending passages and incorporating more ambient textures. The result has been songs that are not just more organized and tightly-knit, but much more adventurous and nuanced as well.
Playing out like the soundtrack to some epic sci-fi chase sequence, Ternary slams you headlong through some futuristic cityscape, veering perilously through side streets and back alleyways in a desperate race to reach the heart of a labyrinthine metropolis. The album moves at a breathtaking pace; there are surprises at every turn, and the occasional detour or dead end forces you to double back and discover a new path. And just when exhaustion sets in and the feeling of claustrophobia begins to overwhelm you, you’re spit out, dizzy and bleary-eyed, into a vast open space, where everything becomes calm and serene. Given its frantic pace, Ternary can often seem like a tumultuous whirlwind, and it’s these points of tranquility and quiet reflection that lend it a much needed sense of space and thematic cohesion.
Dense and difficult, this is not a record for the casual listener; it demands patience and careful attention before its myriad mysteries can be revealed. But for those that take the time to partake in the journey and absorb the brunt force of its manifold ideas, the rewards are many. Simply put, Ternary is a fantastic effort and easily one of the best local records of the year.