I was introduced to City of Ifa in a backhanded way, as it usually goes with support bands.
I’ve been a big fan of The Blood Brothers since 2003, when I heard the perfection that is …Burn, Piano Island, Burn! for the first time. When the group went their separate ways in 2008 (totally devastating), the band split into two factions or camps. Johnny Whitney and Mark Gajadhar formed a band called Neon Blonde, while Jordan Blilie, Cody Votalato and Morgan Henderson created Past Lives.
Past Lives was a step in the direction that the backend of Young Machetes seemed to imply the group was going: less abrasive tracks with room to breathe. Meanwhile, Neon Blonde did the polar opposite: trashy synths and dance grunge.
After Neon Blonde ran its course, Johnny teamed with Cody to form Jaguar Love. It was a concerted effort to create more dance-minded tracks, and they were fun but grew tired quickly.
But I wasn’t about pass on a chance to see two of the dudes from a band that had such an impact on me in my teens – even if their new band wasn’t exactly my thing, and even though I counted like 38 total people by the time JL went on. At the end of the night, I got to buy Johnny Whitney a beer and would have been content to call it a life right there. Then I went home and ate pancakes.
Prior to Jaguar Love’s set, though, a band called City of Ifa opened and stole the show. Why they were even on the bill though, is still a mystery to me. It was obvious that they were the odd band out from the onset of their soundcheck. They would have been a far better fit playing a 20 minute set at a Blood Bros show, as the group’s nestles well somewhere in between The Fall of Troy and The Number Twelve Looks Like You: mathy, spazzy, and extremely technical. And the dudes were in their teens and early 20s to boot, which just made the most sense out of anything that happened that night in March of 2010, in a venue that has since moved, the previous space closed.
City of Ifa’s full-length debut Black Pyramid is a loud, experimental, proggy headrush. Guitarist Paul Hundeby is like Thomas Erak’s long-lost disciple after Erak decided to write and record Manipulator and In the Unlikely Event. Which, as we all know, are both albums that should never have existed because what even are they.
Much of Black Pyramid is characterized by the same curiosity that children exhibit in their own creative process. Which is to say, they have no preconceived notions of criticism or why something shouldn’t be done. It’s miraculous that they lack the persistent and nagging entity that is expectation, hanging in the background as a shadow over those who have achieved the age of reason.
This is the type of achievement that renews my faith in the fact that music can still break new grounds. Regardless of whether or not you’re into the niche genre that is mathcore or abrasive prog-rock, music listeners and lovers of all sort can appreciate the fact that there are still subgenres to be created and planes and fields that haven’t yet been discovered.
City of Ifa’s sound is best exemplified by the searing insanity halfway through “Esto Gaza.” Now that I’m a bit older of a music listener, I tend to feel that I’ve heard all that is possible with heavy music. It’s especially satisfying then, when I do hear a whole song or even a section of a song that surprises and engages me in ways that I thought were either not possible anymore, or ones that had been done before.
Thankfully, one of those moments comes about 2 minutes into “Esto Gaza,” and in doing so, rewrote a portion of what I thought I knew about this genre.
Rewiring your brain once you’ve had your worldview jarred or your earscape reconfigured is the best, truly.
I’ll leave you with that.
From Black Pyramid, this is City of Ifa’s “Dr. Spank” –
Standout tracks: “Sorry Kiddo!” and “Esto Gaza”
Weakest track: Hard to fault the technical precision it takes to play these songs. Instead, I’ll say that this is a niche release in every sense of the word.
RIYL: Math rock, prog rock, highly technical progcore? The Fall of Troy, The Number Twelve Looks Like You, Light Black.