Adorning the cover of Cosines’ debut ‘Oscillations’ are the curvilinear forms of the Legendre polynomials; solutions to a set of problems devised by the French mathematician of the same name. Fittingly, the London-based quartet self-define as a “mathematical pop” group, yet, their not-quite-twee indie is a far cry from the pompous complexity of math rock.

Throughout ‘Oscillations’ interlocking synth and guitar lines recall Stereolab and ‘Parallel Lines’-era Blondie in equal measure, although not with quite such uncanny force as lead-singer Alice Hubley’s airy vocals. And when motorik beats and guitar scuzz do surface it’s always in the service of the cute rather than the kosmiche. There’s an endearing amateurishness to ‘Oscillations’ – from the back-of-an-envelope lyrics down to the boxy, lo-fi production – but its blocky melodies and song structures too often creep from the simple into the simplistic. Perhaps those polynomials traced across the album’s cover provide an instructive analogy: presented contextless – solid lines on tasteful brown background – the curves are stripped of their considerable mathematical import, their function merely decorative.

Indeed, where math rock’s shallow complexity felt like an orgy of intellectual posturing, Cosines’ meeker “mathematical pop” employs its ostensible subject only as a source of quaint, prettified regularity: in both cases the idea of “mathematics”, regrettably, serves little more than contrivance.


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