Doing the maths

Rory Jackson of Doom Shrugs. Photo: Supplied
Rory Jackson of Doom Shrugs. Photo: Supplied
Fraser Thompson profiles the Doom Shrugs.

When I first listened to Doom Shrugs, I wasn't sure if I'd make it all the way through. And then when I got to the end, I felt like I'd put my brain through some sort of scrambling device, like I'd fallen through the abyss and hit every branch on the way down. Then I played it again.

Doom Shrugs started off as a way for Rory Jackson to get points in his University of Otago music papers, but it has continued with the release of debut album The Clairolfactant and the Flatulent Ghost. It's a spider's web held together by jazz-like clean guitar and pierced through by stabbing vocals and staccato chord structures.

I asked Rory what genre he thought it was.

"I don't know, but one of the blogs that premiered the songs called it `experimental math punk' or something like that."

To my ears, it definitely falls in the "math" super-genre of music, characterised by complex and irregular rhythms and dissonant melodies. I'd hesitate to call it mathcore, but it's got the intensity. It's the sort of music which demands close listening and will probably take your attention away from whatever it is you're trying to do anyway.

"My original idea was to make that kind of thing slightly more digestible, and then it turned out it wasn't digestible, so I'm just kind of going with it. It's just how I write apparently."

How he writes involves more office software than I would have anticipated. He explained to me how he uses an Excel spreadsheet to plan out the concepts used across an album. It's satisfying to know that music which sounds so mathematical was conceived on a spreadsheet.

Surprisingly, almost all the instrumentation was performed in the studio by Rory. Johnny Mann (The Rothmans) helped with some of the drumming, but Rory ended up doing most of it himself despite not having drummed before.

"If I didn't want to fail my assignment, I had to learn the drums in like three months.

"I basically just booked one of the practice rooms at uni and just went there every day for hours. It took quite a lot of effort.

"I've been playing guitar since I was 12 and most of the music I listen to is super technical, lots of time signature changes and things like that. So it's less about drum ability and more the ability to change time signatures and things like that."

The drum arrangements turned out pretty creative, probably as a result of his inexperience. He uses the entire kit in a way a trained drummer might not, and periodically falls into extended stretches of what sounds like pure improvisation. It all adds to the general sense of uncomfortable chaos, but in among it all are jazzy guitar melodies.

It's certainly unique.

For more from Fraser Thompson go to dunedinsound.com

See it, hear it

• Listen to Clairolfactant and the Flatulent Ghost at stupidsquare.bandcamp.com

• To watch the gig, visit dunedinsound.com/gigs/rothmans-doom-shrugs

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