Lymbyc Systym - Carved by Glaciers (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Lymbyc Systym

Carved by Glaciers (2009)

Magic Bullet

Post-rock bands tend to occupy a very particular niche. Whether it's familiarity or lack of creativity that breeds such levels of comfort, the fact is that not many bands in the genre branch past their bread-and-butter. With Explosions in the Sky, you know you're going to be getting the same sweeping crescendos of albums past; with the Mercury Program, it's always a decidedly electronic affair.

That's not a bad thing -- not by any means, but it does make it all the more refreshing when a group like Lymbyc Systym comes out and throws the best elements of all your favorite post-rock bands into a musical blender until you can't even count all the different influences on one hand.

The talented duo that comprises Lymbyc System thrive on the challenge of continual reinvention.

The quirky "Lotan Baba" opens the album, and almost immediately, brothers Mike and Jared Bell are meandering back and forth between Merengue-like rhythms and a more understated electronic feel; the transitions are smooth and the tones gorgeous. What is one minute an up-tempo jaunt is the next an exercise in delicacy. Each stroke of the keyboard and each soft hit to the snare drum is perfectly calculated to give the song multiple, intertwined layers of melody. The title track, "Carved by Glaciers," though more straightforward, is no less captivating. The initial keyboard strokes give way to a slow, rhythmic drum pattern and heightening riffs before both taper off, leaving only a twinkle.

It's not until "1000 Arms," though, that Lymbyc Systym truly hits its stride. What begins with a plaintive combination of keyboard and electronic rhythm turns into an engrossing, gorgeous ride that is only faulted by being too short. The runtime doesn't even eclipse three minutes, but it doesn't take half that long for the beautiful keystrokes to meld with the swirling, Telefon Tel Aviv-esque electronic backdrop to create a dynamic that envelops mind and ears the same.

That has long been the barometer for instrumental music -- the ability to say more without words than bands who use them -- and Lymbyc Systym excel in a way few of their contemporaries can compete with.

Post-rock also succeeds in one other very important area: the ability to create powerful and detailed imagery. It's a skill set that can't be taught, making it all the more special when a group like LS can create serene, aquatic visions with tactful use of the vibraphone or evoke images of a bright summer day with the light drum track and warm guitar tones. That trend is continued with "My Lost Last Step," a slow, layered song that uses the most of its four minutes to establish a cyclical rhythm that adds a new part every so often. First the keyboard enters the fray, then the guitar and drums pick up while the vibraphone slides in and out of the picture.

If all of that wasn't enough, the band remixed two of their own songs on the album. "1000 Arms" is remixed in the vein of Her Space Holiday, subsequently becoming more up-tempo and more grand in arrangement. The haunting simplicity of the original gives way to a driving, melodic track that carries only small traces of its previous sound. Lymbyc Systym go a different route entirely with "Selmat Pagi." Opting not to augment, but garnish the track, the duo add American Analog Set-styled vocals to the end of track, adding a dynamic that had been absent throughout the record.

It's possible, albeit difficult, to navigate the overcrowded post-rock genre and create a place with something new. Lymbyc Systym, because of their subtleties and view of the bigger picture, have done just that.