Lilt (Community Records)
Reviewed by Alejandra Ramirez, Fri., July 14, 2017
Math rock: a musician's wet dream brimming with dizzying guitar lines and sprawling drum work that often bogs down in technicality and lifeless bro-dom. Enter Hikes, who somehow make it all accessible. On four-song EP Lilt, the Austin quartet rises and dive-bombs like leaves in a fall breeze. Frontman Nathan Wilkins' six-string picking approximates wind chimes, while Chris Long's taut snare drum both halts and bolts in opener "Grandad." Crisp notes snap with clarity throughout single "Onset" as the band sports beautifully layered production that far exceeds the muddled blur of their 2013 debut Friends. Wilkins and second guitarist Will Kauber show off their roots in hardcore and metal bands as the former sings with a teenage, wide-eyed earnestness that structures into loud, galvanizing choruses. While math rock often lacks caustic edges – This Town Needs Guns' too-glossy sheen or Maps & Atlases' early releases – Hikes oscillates between gentle folk acoustics and distorted, wall-of-noise onslaughts. Their self-titled 2014 EP spun excessive instrumental meandering, but Lilt clocks in under 20 minutes, leaving time to catch your breath between fireworks.