The Motion Mosaic – Avant-Garbage Review

The joke has been made. Or rather, as I am forever chastised by the WordPress interface for the passive voice’s use, The Motion Mosaic made the joke. So did Huck when he checked in to make sure I was covering this. Never one to stop the momentum of a joke at my expense, I let him know I was way ahead of him. To know thyself truly is as hard as Steel or, in this case, hardcore, and it is the goal of The Motion Mosaic’s eclectic sophomore record. The Minneapolis mathcore band focused on immediacy and authenticity with Avant-Garbage. Never a bad idea, but with a title like that, the young band begs the question—can they bring anything fresh to the fore?

As ever, mathcore bands are to be judged by the meter-stick of The Dillinger Escape Plan, a comparison that The Motion Mosaic invite (quite readily) at their own peril. Though they fall quite a bit short of that height, The Motion Mosaic make a good jump for it. Avant-Garbage most resembles Option Paralysis-era Dillinger but contrasts scratchy hardcore riffing across a melodic metalcore background. Their approach is never as detailed or electrifying as the real thing, and singer Spencer Hanton wisely avoids an all-out Puciato impression, plying his screams and croons with a bit less panache. It’s a bit of an obscure reference, but the record I keep comparing Avant-Garbage to is Tharsis They’s Ominous Silence. Both are ostensible mathcore records with a foot still in the conventional metalcore camp, but Avant-Garbage feels like a collection of songs rather than the cohesive Ominous Silence.

But, as with Option Paralysis, conceptual unity hardly matters if the songs are good enough, and Avant-Garbage has a few contenders. “Nirvana” beats out other A-side cuts by virtue of a foreboding and atmospheric bridge, and later “Blue Skies Over Bedlam,” crams choppy riffs and anthemic guitar lines together for what should be Avant-Garbage’s finale. It’s a rare song where you can hear The Motion Mosaic really developing their own style. Unfortunately, that style is based on compromise—it’s near impossible to match the Dillinger intensity, so The Motion Mosaic rely on less technical approximations of their riffing and drumming and fall back on melodic metalcore when making an emotional effort. But most of those emotional efforts just feel canned—clean bridges and soaring leads are not risky techniques, and it’s impossible to say what makes the band unique. The songs are still unpredictable, but never to the degree that it actually feels dangerous or exciting. Sure, the first minute of “Broke Roads” is energetic and moves through a few riffs, but, to return to Option Paralysis, compare that to the first minute of “Farewell Mona Lisa.”

It’s a shame that the material on Avant-Garbage disappoints since it’s all put together very well. The band went to Kevin Antreassian (ex-Dillinger), for the works and he’s done a great job on the recording and mix of Avant-Garbage. The master, not so much. While it’s not marred by excessive distortion or clipping, Avant-Garbage certainly suffers from a lack of dynamism overall, and its calmer moments would benefit from greater depth.1 Yet again, the same could be said of any Dillinger album, and The Motion Mosaic’s deliberate attempt to ally themselves with such titans only serves to accent the shortcomings of their music.

We have here an exemplar of why writing is the single most important contributor to a record’s quality. Avant-Garbage is produced just like a Dillinger album and plays by a lot of the same rules a Dillinger album would. But when I listen to it, I can only remember how good The Dillinger Escape Plan were and what a flawless discography they left behind. Though The Motion Mosaic are capable players, they completely fail to reproduce the complexity and frenetic energy that Dillinger built their career on and lack the overwhelming creativity that kept Dillinger at the top of the mathcore pile for almost two decades. The Motion Mosaic’s approach is regressive rather than progressive, fitting more commercial melodic and progressive metalcore into a jagged mathcore patchwork that was predicated on the rejection of accessible sounds. Enough other bands do that. Conjuring manic energy and creativity without feeling derivative or sycophantic is the realm of great modern mathcore bands,2 and until The Motion Mosaic find their own sound and start to push boundaries, they can hardly be counted among them.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 128 kbps mp3
Label: Self-Released
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide:
February 22nd, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Yes, I’m reviewing a pretty low bitrate copy here, but I honestly doubt I’d notice the difference between 128 kbps and 320 kbps quality for an album I’ve never listened to before. So you audiophile pedants can feel free to fuck right off.
  2. Think of Frontierer’s wrecking-ball insanity or Rolo Tomassi’s incredible emotional depth and valence.
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