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Bubblemath - Turf Ascension (Cuneiform)

6 July 2022

Minneapolis has long been a musical hotbed, having a huge influence via punk and alternative rock, funk and soul and the beautiful enigma of whatever it is that Steve Tibbetts does. Add another genre to that list, however: progressive rock. On its third LP Turf Ascension, Bubblemath makes no bones about its preferred musical methods, opening with “Surface Tension,” a seventeen-minute epic of shifting time signatures, speculative fictive lyrics and, most importantly, ear-catching melodies. While shorter, the expansive “Everything” and knotty “Refuse” retain the same creative attributes, more interested in using the players’ skill to convey the songs, than in displaying their music lessons. Not that guitarists Jonathan G. Smith and Blake Albinson and keyboardist Kai Esbensen don’t take solos, but they tend to be short and to the point. Smith sings Esbensen’s quirky lyrics (“Decrypted” examines the mysteries of DNA through the consciousness of an introspective, but dead, apple tree) in a personable voice, more like someone communicating ideas than intoning great truths. Which is all to say that Bubblemath is a friendly and welcoming prog beast, making Turf Ascension less a grand pronouncement and more a letter from a friend.