You’re excused for having never heard of Rangda, the secret weapon trio of renowned indie label Drag City. Formerly Extinct is just the instrumental sorta-supergroup’s second LP, but Rangda’s three immensely talented members actually have decades of experience between them. Their 2010 debut, False Flag, only left questions about how they should sound playing together, not how well they could sound. With Formerly Extinct, Rangda evolves into something distinctly more maniacal but also clear-eyed, adopting an image of both experience and youthful-mindedness.
The band works the polar ends of tone and tempo throughout, but Formerly Extinct’s finest moments come when they flex their math rock muscle and spin themselves into controlled chaos. “Majnun” is a prime example of that feral energy, and “Silver Nile” – twice as long as any other track at almost 12 minutes – features the ominous stoicism that often precedes it. Like a seasoned predator that still depends on its wild side to go in for the kill but knows exactly when and how to unleash it, Formerly Extinct alternates between patiently harnessing its appetite for guitars and acting out on it by expertly traversing scales and navigating all sorts of skewed time signatures with total precision.
Formerly Extinct will probably inspire more than a few comparisons to Swans’ The Seer, and rightfully so. Both albums are grueling exercises in restraint that grind their own teeth to a powder anticipating the right moments to release the adrenaline they collect so well. When they do arrive, though, you’ll be all the more grateful for the wait.
Essential Tracks: “Majnun”, “Silver Nile”