Pittsburgh has never been known, particularly, as a hub for post-rock, that fluid genre of ”music for people who read books” that flirts with everything from shoegaze to math-rock. (We leave that to Louisville.)
But Burgh-based multi-instrumentalist Mike Layton has been plugging away quietly in the regional SWPA scene for a few years now, most recently as a member of Full Color Illustrations, Frizz, and Old Head. His solo work as Expires, however, is what we celebrate today — more specifically, the cassette/album Fake Sigils, which Flayvor Records released Dec. 9.
While the interwoven guitar-and-bass of Fake Sigils calls to mind Codeine — appropriately, as Codeine’s Chris Brokaw joined Layton for a show on the day of release at Black Forge Coffee House — it also is starkly other. Layton might play all of the instruments herein but his love lays with his shimmering guitar, which stands in the fore as everything else, including his mumbly, understated voice, falls into the landscaping. Occasionally, the buzzing of the background comes to a head — as on the lurching and menacing ”Knives In The Sand,” where bass scales heighten the anxiety supplied by aluminum guitar scraps — but what drives this 11-song beast is the guitar. Think of it as a sorta-MidWest/sorta-East Coast variation on Grand Unified Theory.
Where Grand Unified Theory relied on melodic refrains, though, Layton is more ambitious, toying with mathy guitars (”Vertical Forest”), loops that verge on drones (”You’ve Done Enough”), and even psychedelic textures (”They Don’t Wish You Well”). This keeps the record from feeling like a lazy one-man June of 44 homage, and always keeps you on your toes. The closing ”Anteroom,” all fuzz-scruff and roped guitars, isn’t the only epic thing on the recording.
Last year, on 2016’s Nadir, Layton toyed with musician Ben Chasny’s Hexadic system, which introduced a mode of randomness into composition. But there’s nothing random or accidental about Fake Sigils. In that respect, Layton has crafted a nuanced work of intentionality, a loopy post-rock adventure for you to wrap around head and spin. Worth your ears, for sure.