Wax Fingers
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Wax Fingers

Portland, Oregon, United States | SELF

Portland, Oregon, United States | SELF
Band Rock Avant-garde

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The self-titled debut from Portland's Wax Fingers is unlike most contemporary progressive rock records, especially in terms of endurance. Found far too often nowadays within that admittedly nebulous genre are songs that become weighted by a profound bout of prog-core calisthenics. Any semblance of listenability falls prey to how many time shifts occur within any given verse, and whether the song is art or experiment, or properly both, is lost in the shuffle. Wax Fingers excel at making you wish you were seeing their wizardly psychedelia live, but not minding that you're listening to it in your headphones.

Exhibiting flirtations with Primus-like, hammer-on time signature fuckery, songs like "Sticky Bees" are as fun to listen to as they are to try and describe. The entire album plays like a Mothers of Invention acid trip compilation, pitting highly technical guitar tapping and effects-whipped wails, deft drumming and keys into a frenzy of melting perceptions Dali himself would most likely herald. No two songs sound the same. No one is safe from hyperbole.

Despite a lack of traditional melodic counter-phrasing, songs like "Fasten the Hook" fuss around a groovy, ambitious, percussive-based core just the same, with reverb-fluffy vocals swirling in and about the mischief. "20/20" opens up parlaying a tight rhythm, with a Stewart Copeland rim revue anchoring a sonic plane filled with spatial key tinkerings. Then, just as the squall bleeds out, in comes the circus, the cavalcade of effects, the brigade of bells and whistles that Wax Fingers employs at once remarkably and without shame.

Fittingly, there's also a song called "Abacus," which blueprints a peppy reggae beat, replete with flittery fret work and punchy breaks. It's when that song cracks through to the soft gummy inside (okay, not so soft) that you finally hear an honest-to-goodness verse, then chorus, then verse. At least I think. Counting becomes hard after a while. When it involves listening to Wax Fingers, however, it's not a problem. RYAN PRADO - The Deli


[SPAZZ ROCK] These days, the only surefire way for a rock band to find a unique sound is to adopt a really weird sound. And weirdness is something the Wax Fingers have in spades. Part avant-noise post-rock outfit and part acid-trip jam band, the Portland trio is wading into musical waters that no lifeguards patrol—there’s just no neat genre tag to stick on this stuff.

Yet the Fingers are not beyond comparison: Battles’ Mirrored and Fugazi’s Instrument soundtrack both come to mind, and there are a handful of parallels between the band’s full-length, self-titled debut and Menomena’s first disc, I Am the Fun Blame Monster. Both substitute lively experimentation for clean-cut human emotion, but arrive at an emotional place nonetheless. And Pete Bosack’s voice—on vocal songs like “Sticky Bees” and “Skeleton Key”—remind of Menomena’s Brent Knopf: inscrutable, technically on-point and a little distant.

And like Menomena, the Wax Fingers know not to venture into uncharted territory without arming themselves with an arsenal of melodic weapons. They may play with strange time signatures on “Fasten the Hook,” but they know when to lock into some gorgeous Afropop guitarplay. They know that after a formless, echo-laden space-out like “Pierre Fauchard,” their listeners are ready for a hyperactive, XTC-meets-Jawbox cut like “Abacus.” So Wax Fingers are on a dangerous expedition, but the trio isn’t stupid. From the band’s biggest risks—the tweaker island beat of “20/20”; the barreling, slightly nuts “Skeleton Key”—it is yielding big rewards. This untamed music is a balancing act, and right now everything is in balance for Wax Fingers. - CASEY JARMAN - Willamette Week


The three mad scientists in Portland's Wax Fingers have just emerged from their laboratory with their self-titled debut LP, a record that throws everything but the proverbial kitchen sink into the mix. Not in a pretentious, self-indulgent way, mind you. Wax Fingers' songs move, and they explode at just the right times. Pop hooks lurk underneath the band's squirrelly guitar and synth attack—and, of course, the more you listen, the more noises will start to emerge. "Fasten the Hook" mixes Afro-Cuban rhythms with massive guitar rumble, and "DJ3G" is what the Max Rebo Band should have sounded like. Wax Fingers will likely play these and more at tonight's record-release show, which will presumably be a cross between a punk-rock show and a sci-fi convention. In the best possible way. MARK LORE - The Portland Mercury


When you toy with time signature changes as much as Wax Fingers do, it’s hard for a fan to keep up. Three head bobs is all you get before your downward nod has switched from the accent to the offbeat. Realizing this and eager to keep up, the Wax Fingers faithful have invented a dance I’d like to call “The Catch Up.”

The dance involves helpless flaying, air drumming, and a fish-out-of-water move that matches the Portland trio’s frenetic psych-rock stylings. Imagine the Tasmanian Devil on one of his dizzying trips, minus the destruction. This is the scene now more than ever, as Wax Fingers are producing their wiliest, most creative work to date.

While the vocal mic was low at times, the band’s multi-part instrumentation more than made up for it. It was their first performance at Mississippi Studios and they introduced themselves with familiar tracks like “Strange Mammals” off the Ones and Threes EP.

As collective comfort levels rose, new material emerged. Busy in the studio, Wax Fingers have a new arsenal to draw from, and it’s some of the smartest music in the present Portland circuit. Built out of the same math-rock backbone, there’s a new layer of tempered chaos. There’s percussion all over the stage, from where it’s expected on the trap set to electric guitar neck plucking and rhythm guitar hammering. It’s as though Yes were reunited and asked to cover Animal Collective’s Feels.

With more intricate loops and complex vocal structures that match, there’s added professionalism to Wax Fingers. And with experience comes the ability to be daring without sacrificing your musical personality. With a stage covered in pedals, the band still relies on its signature sweltering effects and mercurial pulse. But as it demonstrated Saturday, its now offering that with heightened unity and imagination. Compliments also go to Brainstorm, who followed Wax Fingers with a strong set of bluesy, punky Americana, and headliners the Prids, who always kill it. - Willamette Week


With one foot planted firmly in an experimental psychedelic stew, and the other tippy-toed on a tight wire of spastic instrumental noodling, Wax Fingers succeed in injecting their plunky pop with depth, but without the pretension. Case in point would be "Sticky Bees," the band's single off of their upcoming self titled album. The tune emerges cleanly, steeped in bright chords, tinkly piano, lots of guitar effects, and reverb-washed vocals during the lengthy intro and first verse, only to bust open into a tantrum-laced chorus. The surprises don't end there, and you'd be foolish to listen to only a snippet to decide if their worth your tutelage. - The Deli Portland


Thanks to The Wax Fingers and their new song, “Sticky Bees,” I now know what it would sound like 20,000 leagues under the sea. And leading this soft charge into the song aquatic is their guitarist, Zack Jacobson, who has seemingly mastered both the “ripple effect” and what I’m going to dub the photon guitar saber. His notes ping back and forth rapidly, unlocking echoes that cement the song’s tranquil tendencies and recall just a bit of Animal Collective-like leanings. It’s a strong way to say hello and I, for one, am interested to hear what they put out on their upcoming debut. Check it out. - Melophobe


The Portland psych-rock trio (plus a computer bassist) Wax Fingers play with time signatures like a cat toys with twine. One minute accessible, the other playing with haste in some distant realm, the band challenges its listeners, who fight to find a rhythm they can consistently bob their heads to. For much of the crowd, it seems to be like listening to jazz for the first time. The conventional, grounded individual may see these departures as impurities. But the band’s stylistic tinkering, spastic expression and impulsive direction is what makes it work.

The group’s development has been swift and encouraging. Reading each other with added clarity these days, the members of Wax Fingers don’t just play off one another anymore, they feed off one another. Any past hesitation—expressed through quieter inter-song lulls at shows long past—is out the window. Media still plays behind the local Krautrockers, but it’s less evident, blurred by explosiveness of the band’s own electric melodies and trouncing drums. Lyrically, the band seems somewhat ambivalent, with frontman Pete Bosack’s vocals falling spectator to his jammy guitar speak. But that’s also a plus: Bosack creates a full-bodied, single-minded series of notes all escaping a single player—a harmony of mouth and hands. - Willamette Week


Discography

-Ones and Threes (ep) 2008

-Wax Fingers (self-titled) debut full-length 2010

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Bio

Wax Fingers is the result of a series of Craigslist ads. In spite of this seemingly impersonal inception, the band exhibits an uncommon level of compatibility. Each member contributes a distinct sound to their elaborate sonic puzzle. Upon dissection, there is no doubt that they are bound by a common motivation.

Looming over a sea of effects pedals, two guitarists construct a meshwork of spastic intricacies. An unyielding drummer grounds every stray note while triggered electronics pulse and throb. Vocals appear in a number of roles, contributing melody and easing any question of accessibility. Interlocked in poly- rhythmic syncopation or saddled in heavy contrast by an expansive field of psychedelia, the trio crafts inventive songs that span a broad spectrum of origin. While brimming with these experimental tendencies, the band also succeeds in maintaining pop sensibility.

Continually drawing from a wide variety of influences, Wax Fingers has taken cues from post rock mammoths Tortoise, the vibrant tribalist qualities of Animal Collective, and the sporadic rhythmic patterns of Battles. Their debut self-titled full-length album is a work of energetic precision and serves as a cohesive illustration of these influences. It is a welcome introduction to a band that is sure to grab the attention of casual listeners and discerning critics alike.