When a note resounds, it’s not so different than brushstrokes of paint on canvas. Colors and tones both blanket empty space in their own ways. Hundreds of brushstrokes comprise a painting, and hundreds of notes comprise a song.
So, it makes sense that singer, guitarist, and visual artist Jason Bartell perceives his new musical outlet Mythless in terms of “Maximalism”—after the post-modern arts movement of the same name. In his case, a veritable symphony of layered guitars curls around ethereal vocals, vibrant keyboards, and percussive polyrhythms likes waves at high tide (Think Enigma, Meshuggah, and Mahavishnu Orchestra soundtracking a 21st century Akira reboot).
Ebullient, engaging, and endearing, the resulting trance swings like a pendulum between guttural and gorgeous on his debut EP Patience Hell.
“I wanted to be all-in maximalist,” he affirms. “There’s no ceiling for how many harmonies I want to hear, and I’m fascinated by the very concept of layering. It’s often about taking a single simple melody or note and making it as complex as possible. I’ve always been affected by an overwhelming snowball of sound. You could say that’s what this is.”
Bartell made his bones in Brooklyn stalwarts Fang Island. After two albums acclaimed by the likes of Pitchfork, Consequence of Sound, Noisey, and more, an MTV sync, and countless shows, the group quietly disbanded during 2015. However, the guitarist didn’t stop creating. Instead, he planted the seeds for Mythless.
“Fang was a band of friends, and sometimes friends just grow in different directions,” he explains. “Once things slowed down and eventually stopped, it became more imperative for me to have an outlet, so I started to focus on Mythless. The experience pushed me to a new place where I would be responsible for everything myself. I enjoyed that freedom.”
Between hosting gallery showings and creating visual art of all kinds, Bartell tracked what would become Patience Hell at Machines With Magnets recording studio in Providence, RI. Fellow Fang alums Marc St. Sauveur and Nicolas Andrew Sadler joined him on the drums and bass, and along the way, he incorporated an expansive aural palette, including “a maximal hard and fast element” with harpsichord and lush keyboards to offset the wall of guitars.
Among the four songs on the EP, first single and opener “PO” hinges on harpsichord energy that recoils into a calming croon and hummable lead line.
“Sonically, that one really exemplifies the whole project,” he goes on. “Droning sheets of sound slowly build, and a story unfolds. There’s a hook about a probation officer, hence the title. These bits of the past materialize again. I was really thinking about accountability.”
From the staccato rush of “Thread Tugging” to the waltzing beat on “Copper Mirror,” Bartell spins a loose, fictional yarn of “drifting vignettes of memory and death… You can take whatever you want from it… it’s not all dark and brooding, and it’s not wholly positive. It’s somewhere in between. That’s what makes it fun.” By embracing those maximalist tendencies, he creates something wholly intimate, yet boldly rapturous in the end.