With an alluring but rather mild swing and Sonic Youth-reminiscent overdrive over the guitar, the beat that starts New Egypt in “Malfroid Archives” is the kind of scene-stealer that would normally make it impossible for us to focus on anything else, but under Mike Knowlton’s command, it’s but one color in a sonic rainbow. Unlettered aren’t playing games in New Egypt, their latest official studio recording, and while it’s only an EP, this is a record that is almost certain to have your attention the instant you hit the play button thanks to its sturdy, unrelenting rhythms and rhymes. It’s been a great spring for rock, but for something a little edgier and very punk-friendly both lyrically and musically, this is the band you need to go see right now.
“Malfroid Archives” absolutely gets the ball rolling right, but once we get into the guts of the noise rock-inspired groove tune “Too Good to be True,” some of the fringe components of this act’s sound begin to make themselves tangible to us. There’s a lot of surrealism in the artistic setup Unlettered are using for New Egypt, and while it wasn’t present in the three tracks featured on some of the material their peers have been releasing as of late, I think it makes for the perfect addition to their overall. It affords the lyrics a pastoral dimension, especially in something like “Too Good to be True,” which makes Knowlton’s sentiments sound and feel even more organic and humanized than they already would have (which is always a good thing in alternative music, no matter the era or the talent in the booth).
“D>B>H” jumps right into the pool of punk prowess without thinking twice, and its reckless beat produces a catharsis in its chorus that is easily my favorite moment of the entire EP. This song isn’t nearly as surreal in compositional style as “Group of Compliers” is, but this doesn’t mean that we face an aural hiccup as we move from one to the other in the natural flow of the tracklist. In all honesty, everything here has a mixtape-style grain (applied with appropriate polish) that makes it easy to listen to on repeat or straight through as was intended by the band, and that isn’t something I’ve found in a lot of other rock records of a similar length and aesthetical persuasion this year.
APPLE MUSIC: https://music.apple.com/us/album/new-egypt-ep/1684210184
New Egypt concludes the back of the angsty “Sin Sip,” and despite being one of the leaner and meaner pieces they could have closed with, it has the most mature and supremely melodic substance of any track here. Unlettered isn’t reinventing the wheel in this record, but they aren’t claiming to be starting a revolution – they’re getting back to the basics of being a noise rock band, and from where I sit, it’s a concept that a lot of other groups in their scene should think about adopting for themselves. I love the pure DNA of New Egypt, and I think most other indie rock fans will, too.