To insinuate that the all instrumental tracks on Carbon Canyon's five-song EP Ironside lack a voice would be misleading. On a figurative level, the skeletal, scythe-like guitar, bass, and drums that populate the trio's sound are all conversational, with each instrument alternately taking charge of the discourse and provoke a response from the respective other two.
Of course, the vocal-less format leaves the music asking more questions than issuing concrete answers, but Carbon Canyon is notable for its level of articulation in the absence of language. The clicking hi-hats and cyclical melodies of "Canadian Made Arm," for example, evoke nothing less than the percussive communication and interaction found in some exotic ecosystem. And this makes Ironside a brilliant theory on paper executed at an equal level of quality on record.
Building upon song fragments reminiscent of Dischord Records acts after they took punk rock as far as they could go with it, Andy Bell's crisp, precise drumming doesn't so much anchor the bass and guitar of Jarrod Mingus and Brandon Ugstad as it chases their figures and themes, which seem to coil around each other before the beats take hold.
Songs like "Meretrix" or "Dancing in the Darkside" are indicative of Carbon Canyon's general aesthetic, creating a mood with minimal playing, setting it in concrete, and jumping into another world sometimes just 10 seconds later. The catchy melodies and granite-hard rhythms of "Eleusinian Mysteries" make for the EP's most accessible track, but there are no weak spots to be found on Ironside. Carbon Canyon play The District, 260 E. Congress St., on Wednesday, July 16 at 9:30 p.m. with Male Bondage and Hibris. Ironside is available digitally at carboncanyon.bandcamp.com/album/ironside.