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A frenetic grab bag

Snailmate's music combines hip-hop, hardcore, and far-out art rock for a corrosive sludge

Snailmate is hell-bent on jostling you from your comfort zone. Photo credit: Missy Simon

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There are no restrictions in music, anymore. The cross-pollination of styles that began with the proliferation of easily accessible recorded music has only snowballed with the rise of the Internet. An isolated individual, for instance, may be just as easily influenced by hip-hop, gonzo art rock, hardcore punk, and early 20th century folk. While these styles may not have previously been allowed to commingle in the formative years of up-and-coming artists, there's now a great equalizer that brings all of the world's music together in one endlessly refracted grab bag. It was in the last couple decades that this musically omnivorous streak spread to people besides the voracious record collectors, resulting in bands that knew no boundaries when it came to creating their art.

A lot of these bands end up thrown into the pile of so-called "weird rock," a sort of catchall for acts that defy easy characterization. Music critics are frequently drawn to these bands, because -- regardless of quality or, honestly, listenability -- they represent something along the vanguard of what is typically accepted in a band that might want to gain an audience. After listening to hundreds of bands that sound exactly the same, the pungent punch of a band that is going wildly off-script is a very welcome encounter. All of this being said, Arizona band Snailmate is playing two shows this week in Olympia, and I'm still working out whether or not I like them. What I do know is that they're interesting and arresting in their eclectic, confrontational style.

Taken at their base, the Arizona duo combines elements of musical genres that immediately give pause: white boy hip-hop, screamo, and sprinkles of far-out art rock. I've always thought that no singular genre need ever be cast out of the popular kids' club, and even praised a band (years ago) that incorporated rap-rock into their progressive genre scribblings. In the case of Snailmate, there's a level of conviction and artistic intent that carries me over the threshold into believing that these people are, indeed, quite talented, and not the result of a thousand hours of early, fidgety ‘00s music being fed into an AI program.

Made up of Kalen Lander on vocals and synth, and Ariel Monet on vocals and drums, Snailmate makes a meal out of their minimalistic set-up, boiling down their whole sound to restless percussion, wild synths, and some unhinged voices guiding it all along. Punk and hip-hop swirl together, for Snailmate, with assaultive instrumentation augmenting frenetic rap, in turn evoking disparate acts like Why? and Mindless Self Indulgence along the way. This is music that's flagrant in its disregard for allowing you to find a groove, with Lander and Monet frequently throwing you off the path you thought you were heading down.

Standout track "On You," from their recently released EP Existential Anxiety, seems to change course every few seconds, constantly getting collisions from every side -- grandiose refrains, kids' music mouth sounds, and dark descents into madness. This may be what Frank Zappa would've gotten into in the late ‘90s. Snailmate is too tight to think of as a band that is just throwing things at the wall to see what sticks; every carnival-music melody disturbed by cookie monster vocals seems like an intentional flourish, with everything adding up to a corrosive sludge that nevertheless remains inviting. Yes, Snailmate is weird, but there's an intention that keeps me intrigued and invigoratingly thrown. Keeping your brain tickled and your feet off-kilter is as beneficial as using a treadmill, and even when the music is actively fighting you, it feels healthy to let it win.

SNAILMATE, all ages, w/ Tommy Thomas, Another Sentiment, Darkmysticwoods, 6:30 p.m., Sunday, July 22, Le Voyeur, 404 4th Ave. E., Olympia, $5 suggested donation, 360.943.5710,

SNAILMATE, w/ Dead Obvious, Fuzzy Math, 9 p.m., Monday, July 23, no cover, The Pig Bar, 619 Legion Way SE, Olympia, 360.943.6900

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