Never operating within a single genre mold is the norm for Las Abejas. In their six years running, the Puerto Rican band has been consistently explorative; they circle around a starting style wide enough to scoop up plenty of fringe aesthetics along their route.
On Las Abejas, their forthcoming album, post-punk is a fitting nucleus. The self-titled release is their lengthiest to date, signifying a solid step forward as a group. Dark and brooding looks especially good on them.
Back when they were still calling themselves The Bee’s Knees, Las Abejas launched from the sparse but spastic no wave end of things with their 2011 living room recordings, but only dabbled in the genre after. No Pun Intended, delivered the same year, generously folded math rock into sawtooth shoegaze. Later, they whipped out an impressive smorgasbord of sounds on 2013’s Lazy Views, serving up everything from sludge, peppy grunge, gloomy ballads, and bubblegum garage. It was a mercurial EP, for sure — but they delivered it all quite masterfully.
This album, however, shows Las Abejas with surer footing. Post-punk support beams stick out on nearly every song, from the opening freak-out of “She Will” to the eight minutes of “Don’t Shoot!,” most of which is bristly ear-blasting perfection. They stray a tad with the weirdo pop of “Wolves,” but the signature off-kilter, sometimes jarring falsetto of Jorge Perez and a perpetually antsy pace work like a gag on any gleeful sentiments.
“Hounds” screeches through prog-rock influences, and “Boo (It’s Just a Game)” often slows to a romantic stroll — still, there’s an underlying bleakness to both that emphasizes the album’s closest genre ally. In any case, Las Abejas exits with another 8-minute-plus epic, the instrumental “La Eterna Despedida,” which is easily Las Abejas’ most dejected work — ever.
Las Abejas is out March 18 digitally and on cassette via Dead Mofongo Records.
Editor’s note: On March 18, Las Abejas will throw a record release party at San Juan’s Club 77, a venue owned by the author of this piece.