Bellini The Precious Prize of Gravity

[Temporary Residence; 2009]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: math rock, indie rock
Others: Uzeda, Shellac, Girls Against Boys, Jesus Lizard, June of 44

Bellini’s first record, Snowing Sun, hit in 2001, but the group’s sonic territory has always been solidly ’90s. To approach the Bellini catalog, with which The Precious Prize of Gravity keenly articulates, is to savor a particular moment in the American underground, devoid of flair but fed on an almost academic seriousness toward harmony and rhythm. Brooding, motoring through chunky fives and sixes that tame emotion and adornment, this strain of math rock both repressed the histrionics of hardcore and fended off the lazy joie de vivre animating contemporaries on the order of Pavement. Bellini, the understated synthesis of Uzeda folks, DC grownups, and, at first, Don Cab’s Damon Che, channeled the mechanics of late capitalism with the neuroses of Y2K.

The Precious Prize of Gravity ends a four-year drought, but little has changed. The record is full of tension but not rage, proficiency but not pretense. The Albini crunch coats it from the start, crowded dissonance blooming across peaks and valleys that obey a spare, steady logic. There’s a stretchy syncopation to these 10 tracks, but they don’t evince capricious humanity so much as a Taylorist production line: variation is minimal, resistance immanent.

This is Bellini’s strength, not a capitulation: their pensive, Slint-y post-hardcore is an awesome thing, a vast landscape of polyrhythms and intelligent machines. The climaxes don’t entail chaos or convulsion; drama resides in the pregnant pauses and Giovanna Cacciola’s occasionally strident voice (think a medicated Corin Tucker). “The Thin Line” grinds to a halt — bring that beat back — before a relatively placid coda, but it’s an outlier. Bellini’s third LP, steady as she goes, is a finely calibrated study in popular mechanics. Its focused aggression recalls the mathematics of another time, preternaturally relevant without the obtrusion or gimmickry that has since claimed and devalued mainline indie rock.

1. Wake Up Under a Truck
2. Numbers
3. Daughter Leaving
4. Susie
5. Tiger’s Milk
6. The Man Who Lost His Wings
7. Save the Greyhounds
8. The Thin Line
9. The Painter
10. A Deep Wound

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