Introducing | The New Sound Of Numbers

by Lee Adcock

The great thing about music is that it can set your body free.

Think about it. TV shows and movies demand that you keep your eyeballs fixed to a screen – and while most of us don’t freeze before the tube 100% of the time, you really can’t appreciate a decent, scripted work without watching the actors. Books have no sounds to grab your ears with, so you must lock your eyes onto the page (or screen, if that’s your fancy).

But now, music doesn’t require that visual attention. In fact, the catchiest tunes encourage movement. A chugga-chugga motion, actually. (C’mon, baby, do the locomotive.) So up and down and ‘round and ‘round we gooooo again. And, while we’re at it, let me see you shake your tailfeather. These are all outdated examples, but you catch my drift.

The New Sound of Numbers owe nothing to the old 50s/60s dance craze tunes – but, good lord, do they set the body free. And the mind, too, while we’re at it.

I know this, because I was a timid, frightened little novice of a concert goer until I heard the righteous band (eight members strong) live at the little Flicker in Athens, Georgia. I was huddled on the couch up front, and still unsure what to do with myself, when New Sound cranked into “New Dance”. It’s a killer tune, that snarls with B-52-ish fervor, and with driving, surging harmonies and chants, to the anarchic climax: Knock it all down! What else could one do, in this hectic environ, but leap up and move, sway, and get down with the rocking crowd?

And then, once up, my feet would not stand still. Especially not for “Patterns in a Test Tube”, still my favorite on the entire album – that bouncing bass, those echoing horns that billowed across centuries, the swirling viola that weaved in and out throughout the entire set…oh, man. I could not control myself.

I’m probably running ahead here. Let’s backtrack. The New Sound of Numbers is an organic entity based in Athens that stemmed from the psychedelic Elephant Six collective. Of Montreal tend to be the poster children of the gang, but a great legion of bands have formed and dissolved under the Elephant Six moniker (Olivia Tremor Control, Apples in Stereo, the Gerbils, Circulatory System…I could go on). And while there’s no doubt that Invisible Magnetic, this latest LP, is a head trip that one could expect from such illustrious ancestors, New Sound possess a heady, cosmic vibe unmatched by their peers. You can hear it in their wonderfully weird ensembles, and in their perplexing, but harmonious lyrics.

The variety of blissful tunage packed on this album is mindboggling. There are the barnburners that I mentioned above, along with the exuberant “Complete” (C! O-M! P-L-E-T-E!), the super-charged “Turn Around”, and the wicked cruiser “Antenna”. But then there’s “Feel”, an instrumental that chugga-chugga moves to a motoric beat as a bassoon rises and falls, and “Green Wind”, a slow and mesmerizing ballad that should place you in a zen-like trance. And, my lord, “Energy Plan”. Glorious. Just glorious. And damn, what a cool bass player.

There’s also some really groovy percussion. Dig, for instance, the quirky steel drum in “Seed Pod Riot”, or the joyous clattering of bells and other percussive things in “Like Children Do”. Fun fact – when New Sound played at the Flicker, they left their box of noisy toys at the front of the stage, so that we front-row folk could grab a bell or two and cook up our own rhythms. Which we did, of course.

So. Invisible Magnetic is one joyous album, that celebrates the many dimensions of life on Earth and within the universe. And New Sound can throw one helluva party. Yes – they’ll set your body AND mind free all at once.

Invisible Magnetic is out now on Cloud Recordings, on lovely blue vinyl.

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