Cranking the maximum amount of tension out of their minimalist post-punk, Portland, Oregon's Lithics give a 21st century jolt to the sounds of forebears like Bush Tetras, Pylon, and Captain Beefheart. On 2016's Borrowed Floors, the combination of their tightly wound rhythms, jabbing, scrabbling guitars, and Aubrey Hornor's surreally blank vocals and lyrics reflected the anxiety and disillusionment of the late 2010s. They expanded on this mood with 2018's breakthrough Mating Surfaces and its 2020 follow-up Tower of Age, both of which proved they could take a more direct approach without losing any of their subversiveness.
When they formed Lithics in late 2014, the band's members -- Hornor, bassist Bob Desaulniers, drummer Wiley Hickson, and guitarist Mason Crumley -- had been friends for years and shared bills with their various other bands on the Portland scene. For Lithics, Hornor stepped up for lead vocal duties and took an instinctive approach to guitar, which she'd played as a kid but set aside for the drums. Gradually, the band refined its approach, using Hornor's fragmented, surreal lyrics as a jumping-off point for improvisations that the band later structured into songs that continued in the jagged vein of Devo, Kleenex/LiLiPUT, and the Fall. In July 2015, they self-released the Lithics EP as a limited-edition cassette. Their debut album Borrowed Floors appeared in March 2016 on Water Wing Records, earning praise for its fresh take on taut, confrontational post-punk. Wendy Kraemer, another self-released limited-edition EP that showcased the band's jamming skills, arrived in August 2017. The following year, Lithics moved to Kill Rock Stars for their second full-length, May 2018's politically charged Mating Surfaces. With its wider release came wider acclaim for the band, and Lithics embarked on tours of Europe and the U.S. in support of the album. That August, the Kansas City, Missouri-based label Thrilling Living issued the double A-sided single "Photograph, You Of"/"Lost Signal." Trouble in Mind released the jittery yet catchy Tower of Age in June 2020. ~ Heather Phares