With their latest album, Zenith, just released, self-proclaimed instrumental prog band Poly-Math played a special album launch gig at Signature Brew in Walthamstow, East London. Always keen to attend a gig in a brewery, TPA’s Jez Rowden was on hand to test the beer. Oh, and to talk at length to all of the five members of Poly-Math (Joe Branton (bass), Tim Walters (guitar), Chris Woollison (drums), Josh Gesner (keyboards) & Chris Olsen (sax)) about the album, touring plans and how to merge some multitudinous musical strands…
Hi Guys, how’s everybody doing? So: History of the band – how did it all come about?
Joe Branton: Well, initially we were a three piece for the longest time. It was Tim [Walters], our guitarist, who was playing drums in a band called Monsters Build Mean Robots, so I think he just wanted a bit of a guitar outlet, and so we were all friends outside of bands and all in separate bands…
Tim Walters: … and we all drink in the same pub…
Joe: Yeah, we all drink in the same pub, and I think most of our bands had sort of come to a natural end anyway, and so we started out as a three-piece back then and, I think, our first real show – our first proper show – was the first ever ArcTanGent, we got booked last minute; there was a dropout, Tim was playing with Monsters Build Mean Robots, or maybe not that year? He just knew James, who was the booker.
Joe: And so he asked Poly-Math to fill in on a slot in the afternoon, and at that point, I don’t think we were really taking Poly-Math very seriously.
Tim: We weren’t going to gig it, really.
Chris Woollison: It really was just a bit of fun to do.
Joe: But it really packed out, as everything does at ArcTanGent.
Joe: Yes. Great. So yeah, it was a packed out show and we thought ‘oh well, actually, maybe people quite like this,’ so that’s where it started. And then a few years later, we got Josh [Gesner] on keys, because we found that whenever we were recording stuff, we were constantly trying to play keys parts in and none of us – well, actually Chris is a pianist [laughter] – we would always be, like, downloading Mellotron apps on our phones and trying to play them in, so it made sense for us to get an actual keyboard in, so we got Josh as our fourth member and then a couple of records ago now we were putting saxophone in bits and places and getting another friend of ours – also called Chris [Olsen] – and so we decided that sax would be a good part and again, Olsen’s previous band, Death and the Penguin, were coming to a bit of a natural end and he was a guitarist in that first and so, yeah, it was great.
So it’s like the sax sort of found its way into it, more than anything else; you had the odd part coming in and then decided ‘oh, this works.’
Joe: That’s it. Well, I think we had some room for it here and there. We can’t have him standing around all the time.
You have to make the most of him!
Joe: So yeah, initially Chris was coming in and just writing in additional parts but very much had to be supportive because the songs were pre-written. So this record is the first time where all of us have – and actually even though Josh has been in the band for half of the band’s existence [laughter] you’ve not been on any records!
Josh Gesner: It was just like the songs were already there, and so I’d have to just either fill in something or support a bit or maybe do some facsimile of the second guitar part of what Tim did or whatever. Olsen was also doing that because I was at least on that one EP then, and now, finally, stuff has actually been arranged with all of us in mind.
Joe: And written with all of us in mind, so yeah, for the first time ever, we’re finding – me and Tim especially – are finding we’re doing less than we’ve ever done before.
Tim: We used to have a lot to cover in the three-piece days, you’re gonna be in that kind of sound, so that’s why I played through two amps and they have a low end you can boost [to Joe] you were playing more effects pedals than I was as well, and you would kind of pad out as well as trying to come across with your instrument, but now it’s really nice to just step back and there are now three leads in the band so we just give each other space and we’re like ‘you do that’ and ‘why doesn’t the sax do that?’ ‘Let’s do that’.
I’d not heard of you until Portals [Festival in May 2022] where you just came on and whipped the top of my head off! [laughter] It really was a blast. That was a great show.
Josh: I don’t know why exactly, but for me it was like my favourite time I’ve ever had playing, it just sounded really good on stage and we were just in the right mood.
It really cut through and it was a real eye opener. It was fab. How did you get involved then, Josh?
Josh: Well, I knew them from, er, actually when I first moved to London, 10 years ago, one of the first gigs I ever went to was Poly-Math, and another band called Shrine and a band called Lost In The Riots. I met one of the guitarists from Lost In The Riots, I had a record label called London Voyage Records. We actually put out the first Poly-Math EP.
Joe: Yeah, Reptiles – he bankrolled us!
So that’s why he’s in!
Josh: It was just like a drunken… we were hanging out at Twelve Years of Chaos, down by the canal, like tonight partially.
Joe: That’s when we asked you to join as well.
Josh: Yeah, and I was like “You know, your album has like a little bit of keys, you know, it’s not much but it’s just really like simple and I could, if you ever wanted to do that then cool and I could do that”, and then Joe was like, “Yeah you should join the band!”
Joe: This was at about 4am in that Airbnb, wasn’t it? But we had talked about it before, we had talked about it, and Josh’s name had come up, it wasn’t totally out of nowhere.
Chris W.: He was always like, “If you need anything” and it was just rumbling on and he turned up one day and we’re like “So Josh, you’re in the band!” and that was it.
So initially then, with the keys and the sax, it was replicating parts that you’d already decided to add on and then it became more integral.
Josh: Yes, it was, you know, play some lighthouse chords and stuff to fill things out because maybe Tim’s just doing riffing and I can actually just fill out the sound also, a lot of the time.
Tim: It was sort of rearranging what was written, you had your melody parts and the rest had been done, but as we played the songs more and more, there was more space to ad lib and then we thought, “Well, maybe we can change the songs all around”. You could add something else so it was definitely involved in new songs.
So the original songs that you had when you were a trio, how have they evolved to fit in with the new sounds? Have they, or do you just not play any of them anymore?
Joe: We do play one from the first EP tonight actually, one of those, and they have definitely evolved and changed parts; things that, like Tim said, he used to play through two amps but it wasn’t a stereo rig, he had one amp that was permanently going through an octave down, so he could turn that amp on and off so it was like adding a second bass guitar, and a lot of that was to make the riffs big, and so the saxophone doubling up with the guitar replaces that. Those early EPs, when we were recording them, we were looking for a big sound. Our producer for the first of those EPs was a guy called Lee McMahon, who was the front of house for And So I Watch You From Afar, and so I think those early records echoed And So I Watch You From Afar, not their sound, but the amount of layers, like they’d have a wall of sound, every guitar player has forty guitars, and certainly, when we recorded things like Babel, which we’ll play tonight, we must have had, yeah, thirty or forty guitars going on.
Chris W.: 80,90 tracks!
Joe: Yeah, exactly. So having the keys and having the sax is basically taking up the space that was there, but we’ve changed it. We’re in a completely different tuning now to how we recorded those sounds. When we recorded all that early stuff it was all 440 and now we’re in D standard a lot of the time, or drop-C or Fripp New Standard, but for when we play Babel, the old stuff, we now play at a tone down so it’s got a heavier feel. We sort of try and move away from some of that mathy, almost… not popularness [laughter], but there’s a ‘math rockness’ that the first tracks had.
Chris W.: It’s sort of major thing.
Josh: It’s kind of like that because when I first joined, I sat down and was trying to make up some parts and learn some of the songs and I didn’t realise that you guys had tuned down from when you recorded them, so everything was in the wrong key and it was like a week before I found out that it was all fucking wrong! [laughter] I’d forgotten about that!
So what was the intention then with what you were trying to do with the band originally? What were you trying to achieve, was it just having a laugh and see where it goes or was there a point to it?
Chris W.: We’ve all been in bands and we’ve done it and, like we said, our bands were kind of wrapping up and we ended up doing the same thing. Just have some fun playing music.
Joe: Without having to try to be anything.
Chris W.: Because all the bands previously have gone, “We’ll play this, you play XYZ to get this far or do that”, and it’s like, ‘Aw, I just can’t be bothered with it, let’s have some fun.’ You just lose the fun element out of it in terms of rehearsal by going ‘we’re just playing the same thing. We’re not going to be the greatest, are we enjoying it anymore?’ and that’s when the fun is taken out of it. It gets a bit boring.
Yeah, and I think that’s one of the things that comes across is the enthusiasm for what you’re doing, and the way you present it as well, it’s not just about playing the stuff. It’s the whole presentation, the way you’re actually bringing it across. And it works really well. How much time do you put in, in terms of honing the performance element of it, or is it all about trying to remember all the bits!?
Josh: Joe practising dance moves!
It comes naturally then!
Joe: We don’t practice as much as we should, but certainly over the lockdown I think, when the first lockdown happened, we had to cancel the tour and maybe a recording session – I can’t remember if there was a recording session – so we had to cancel a bunch of stuff.
Josh: We were going to demo this stuff.
Joe: Yeah, that’s right, there was a demo session, we were going to meet up.
Josh: The local law was about to change so we decided not to meet up, and then one of us got Covid, so we were glad, it was right at the time of that first lockdown, whenever that happen.
Joe: When all of that happened, other than Olsen, none of us could record, none of us could use a DAW [Digital Audio Workstation], none of us could make stuff at home. And so we all got the same DAW and Chris [Olsen] largely taught us how to make music at home so we could actually exchange parts and still write together.
Exactly the right time to be doing that then.
Joe: Exactly. We put out two records during lockdown that were, um, they weren’t really Poly-Math records, we put them out as Poly-Math but they were all us recording remotely so they didn’t have any drums on them, it’s largely electronic drums, and we got in a few guest singers and stuff, but that was a way of us sort of exploring and developing our ability to write in a different format. And that’s really helped this record as well because for the first time, rather than just having to write in a room, as we’re all getting older and we have less free time, it’s very handy to be able to have those pre-recorded bits, to be able to mess around, like Canticum II [from Zenith] was essentially all the-off cuts that we decided not to use which Olsen ended up putting together in a mix, and [to Tim] he took one of your guitar parts out of a totally different riff, a really weird atonal lead part that had been put on top of something else.
Tim: It was like the original riff, I played it over the original riff, and then I was like “Send that over to me, I like that, we can go from here, here and here”, and he came back and he had taken the riff out and just left the drums and the atonal riff in and then put a new riff which ended the song. I was like, “Fuck, I’d never have thought of that!” It was really good.
Chris W: And what I think was really nice during the album process, there was a lot of “I never would have thought of that, I would never have come in with that.”
Chris Olsen: It was really nice to draw on these really different influences, it has a massive effect.
Yeah, it takes you somewhere new completely and then you can build on that, but when it actually comes to write new stuff, you’ve already got that in mind in order to take it further.
Josh: One of the songs, Zenith, the title track, was actually just a drumbeat which he recorded, right? Then you put a bassline on it and the song is actually largely like it’s played on bass and drums, because it was actually just the drumbeat of it.
Joe: We’d literally bought some drum programming software, and Chris was messing around with it and it was like this beat that I’d made with some drum programming software. And I had a spare five minutes and put a little bassline over the top of it and sent it back. And that’s ended up being the title track of the album!
Just one of those serendipitous type things that happens then! So like you said, you’ve moved more away from the mathy kind of sound that you would have started with. Where do you see yourselves now, because from my perspective, I’m coming from more of a prog element if you like, and there’s so much crossover and yet the audiences for Portals and ArcTanGent and other prog stuff are so different. And it’s like, you know, where do you see yourselves because to me you appeal to both sides, as it were, or you would do if more people got to hear it.
Chris W.: That’s interesting because we kind of don’t quite know where we sit, with this last album we’re definitely a lot more on the prog side.
Joe: We listen to a lot of King Crimson. We don’t really like math rock, like none of us really listen to math rock – or what has become known as math rock.
Tim: Because we played the first ArcTanGent, which was meant to hail math rock and stuff like that, and because we play in different time signatures and every band on there was a math rock band…
Chris W.: …and we’ve got the word ‘Math’ in the band name. [laughter]
It’s a bit of a give away!
Tim: I don’t think we’ve ever been that, we’ve always had our roots in prog and that’s where our influences are from.
It’s funny then that the audience that sort of picked you up first was the more math end of things and it’s still a fact that people I know who like this kind of stuff have not come across you before; it’s really odd. I can’t actually figure out why there is this barrier down the middle of it all.
Josh: I think it’s nice that people like yourself and the London Prog Gigs Group on Facebook, you’re trying to actually get groups to talk and go to the same gigs because it is ridiculous, it’s weird, and I don’t know why there are so many of the ideas that both groups hold, you know, as important for their types of bands are definitely shared.
Joe: So do you think people write-off the other side?
Josh: Yeah, for younger people it’s like prog is a dirty word.
It works the other way around as well.
Josh: Yeah, and then people are like, “Oh, this is too mathy” or “it’s too punky.”
Tim: It’s like “Clean guitars, quite happy”. Yeah, I’m not into that.
But I don’t think it’s an age thing and I don’t think it’s like all old people over there and all young people there, but it’s noticeable when you go to Portals that the age comes down to, whatever, 30 or whatever it might be. And it’s just one of those things I can’t quite fathom as to why there is a difference.
Joe: Maybe we’re in the middle because we’re in the middle ages [laughter], we’re about 40, so…
So you get to be prog as you get older, taking the audience with you!
Joe: That’s certainly what we listen to, it’s almost exclusively prog.
Tim: The things that influence our riffs are very much so.
Yeah, definitely, when I listen to the album it’s Crimson and Van der Graaf, with the sax definitely, and whatever else comes in, I mean, a bit of Opeth I think I heard in there at some point as well. What sort of things do you individually bring in that you think is an influence for yourselves?
Tim: Well definitely Crimson is one of those things.
Joe: Yeah, we play in Fripp tuning – one of the songs is literally called Fripp – we had to rename it.
Josh: I don’t think it’s a specific song or anything, it’s just in Fripp tuning.
So is there anything else, from the classic end, or are there newer elements or whatever?
Chris O.: Me personally, I listen to a lot of jazz as do the others a bit, I’ve also got a sort of secret love for tech metal, that kind of stuff, and I think I’ve taken bits of that and kind of put it in, as long as I’ve tried to make it not sound too tech metal when I’m demoing it, but I don’t always manage. I think it’s taking a genre which the guys in the band don’t listen to particularly but there are elements you can take from that.
Yeah, so it’s just another new part of the ‘stew’ of the sound really?
Chris O.: Yeah.
Josh: It’s like when you join a band, people do always have different tastes, and sometimes what you have to do is, instead of just mashing in this thing that you tend to listen to or whatever, you have to actually think about where it’s going to fit in, kind of like Chris was saying. I listen to a lot of electronic stuff, so I want to do some synths, but then I don’t just want to make it, you know, completely electronic music. It has to fit, so instead I’m finding different ways to use synths that still has this physical sort of heavy sound that we have and, you know, it’s all about how to fit it into a way that makes sense for everybody together. We all have a lot of overlapping tastes, but also listen to quite different music actually.
Is there anything that anybody’s brought in that you’ve vetoed, you just think that’s not gonna work for you as individuals?
Josh: I’ve been constantly wanting to play a Hofner bass and make everything like the Beatles, but you guys don’t want any of that. Fine. [laughter]
Josh: The Beatles were good though.
Can’t beat that.
Chris O.: I think particularly with this album we were trying to avoid having any particular kind of… basically keeping it quite concise, so I think where the last album, where I wasn’t involved, I think, potentially it had a lot of soundscapes and it was just a feature of the album – the last couple of albums – a big thing, almost a standalone concept piece. There were a lot of ideas, this one was much more like we’re going to try and write concise songs. If at any point it felt like things were starting to meander or we were adding in extra sections or extra ideas for the sake of it, it was quite…
Joe: That was not something we’d ever done before, we always just let things run until we got bored with the section, and then we’d move on.
Chris W.: I think that when the previous record was done, it was kind of building, the last three records were kind of being longer and longer until House of Wisdom came out and it was like this expansive piece and 75-minutes long and you go, “You can’t recreate that, so what’s the point?” So we did go “Right, let’s cut it all down; eight songs, four-minutes a piece”.
So that was the definitive decision to do that?
Chris W: Yes, and it worked, especially having the five of us working on a record together which, you know, we haven’t done before and it was very much like, this is kind of what we want, we don’t want to do expansive things. Let’s just hone it and make this really good, this song, rather than make it half-arsed.
Well I think that’s what makes the album that much more effective, it just hits you, it does what it does and then it’s on to the next thing; it doesn’t outstay its welcome, but it does a hell of a lot in the four-minutes!
Josh: Because it still goes through all the various elements we would have had in a much longer version of the song, but it’s like you don’t just sit on every riff for a few minutes before you go to the next one. You try to make it into flow quickly, but it’s not simplified down to then just make little pop songs, it’s compressed as much as we can with the same number of ideas.
Yeah, yeah. So how did the show go last night? Brighton wasn’t it?
Joe: Really good, really, really well. Yeah, what a wonderful opening for us to have. Lovely venue Green Door Store, not one that we have played since we were there with Tera Melos as a three-piece [in 2018].
So do you play mostly in Brighton or London?
Joe: I think that’s where we would consider our home area for gigs. Brighton is a tricky town to play, it doesn’t really have a strong prog or math scene, it has a strong grunge scene. And also, Brighton suffers from, you know, it’s a small place with an awful lot happening. On any given night there’s lots of gigs.
Chris W.: And it’s so close to London so it splits the gig-going crowd. If they can see a band play up in London, they’re going to go and see them at a bigger venue.
Joe: Exactly, so it’s often problematic for us, but last night was the best show we’ve ever played. Probably the biggest audience we’ve ever pulled in Brighton, close to it anyway.
So you’ve got the next couple of weeks of pretty solid touring then?
Joe: We’ve got a couple of days off after this one, which I think… we’ll need [referencing the brewery venue to laughter] and then we’re off from Wednesday.
Chris W.: Wednesday for about 12 days?
Joe: Yeah, I think Wednesday we’re playing Bristol, at Rough Trade, which we’re really looking forward to. We love to play in Bristol.
Bristol’s a great town, there’s always all sorts on there, it’s like Brighton in many respects.
Joe: Bristol is a fantastic town for us to play. It’s just always packed whenever we’ve played it, which is really great. Risky for us to play at Rough Trade I think, so we probably spend more money on records than we make [laughter] but yeah, that’s going to be really good.
So you’ve got Bicurious you’re going out with in Ireland.
Joe: That’s right, yeah, four shows in Ireland.
Which is really cool. Do you know if there are any particular bands supporting on the rest of the UK dates?
Joe: It’s just local bands. Normally, we’ve almost always gone out with another band. Maybe we’ve done one tour on our tods, but it’s normally with another band. So this is nice.
Josh: It’s just easier for the organisation. They can just book one band and then the promoter can decide if they want local bands or whatever and it’s just easier.
So you’ve got no say in that, it’s just whatever happens for the promoter?
Chris W. Well for last night they actually asked us and we got Luo.
I love Luo, they’re great.
Chris W.: It was actually Josh Trinnaman’s side project, so it’s like a load of stuff that he’s made and it’s a bit more on the electronic side isn’t it, and a different drummer. So they did this crazy improvised set.
Joe: They hadn’t had a practice so they were eyeballing changes, him on a laptop and eyeballing the drummer.
Joe: It was incredible.
Josh: It was a lot like the early days of Luo, they started more as like quiet like electronic post-rocky stuff with just really crazy fast drumming underneath it. But then it slowly morphed, slowly evolved into a lot more structured, a bit more aggressive and all this, and this was kind of more of the way it used to be, but to the point where you would no longer call it Luo, but it’s kind of how it started. Anyway, it’s great. And Let’s Swim, Get Swimming were the other one on.
Oh yeah, they played Portals I think but I missed them.
Joe: They’re great, they’re kind of like your quintessential math rock band. You know, they’re funny, it’s punky, they’ve got great super-fast tappy riffs and stuff, but there’s a bit more body to it, even though they’re a two-piece, he plays Les Paul’s through a Vox AC 30 so it’s slightly less… oh sorry, sorry… [laughter]
Tim: Which pedals did he have, Joe? [laughter]
Chris W: Somebody asked me last night what drum skins I use, and I couldn’t tell them. “Oh I try lots of different things…!” [laughter]
Joe: The moral to this – the moral? [laughter] – the theme of this is that I really care about gear and they don’t. [laughter]
So in terms of gigs, because, God knows, what you do is not run-of-the-mill stuff, how is it trying to get gigs? Is there a channel that you go down where you can find gigs in certain towns?
Chris W: It’s definitely like there are stronger places to play, places that get it. It seems to be the bigger cities is where it goes down better. There’s places we’ll go every tour, like Bristol, London, Brighton, but then, you know, we still manage to fit other places in and try and nurture it a little bit there.
You’ve got to try it, haven’t you?
Joe: It’s funny the places that do and don’t work. Like we’ve got both Manchester and Liverpool on this tour, which historically haven’t been fantastic places, despite them being big cities.
Josh: Or conversely, Nottingham was great. I think a lot is about promoters and how much energy there is, like Nottingham, with Marty it’s always absolutely great. And it’s clearly not because Nottingham just absolutely loves Poly-Math.
It’s funny what you say about Liverpool and Manchester, they’re the kinds of towns you’d think there would be enough of an audience for it, it’s really odd how it works.
Josh: Well it’s a small enough scene that it just depends on if you happen to know the right person that can actually get connected to the right people that are actually going to like your band. And so it’s actually still, a lot of it, is up to the promoter, not just us – or maybe it’s just Liverpool… [laughter] But actually the last time we played Liverpool was really good. It’s just for how big they are, you’d expect more.
It’s always the way, isn’t it? The number of gigs you go to and there’s just small numbers of people there, it’s like “well, where’s everybody else?” There’s millions of people in this town, where are they? So what have you got after the tour now, Zenith is out and people are actually hearing it. What’s next?
Joe: Well, Europe early next year, we’ve got a couple of shows at the end of March. We’ve got the Chaos Theory show in… February I think. Europe In March.
What sort of places?
Chris W.: It’s still being booked so we’ve yet to find out. We’ve always done quite well in Germany when we’ve been out there.
Joe: But we’re with a new booking agent for Europe for this one and they seem to have been very positive about being able to easily book us shows in not much time. So we’ve got high hopes. It’s been a while, it feels like ages since we’ve been over in Europe.
Tim: It was just before Covid.
Joe: Wasn’t it the November before Covid?
Yeah, that put a massive spanner in the works for everybody. You said you managed to carry on recording and doing separate things during that. Obviously now you can actually play again… well, you’ve played live before obviously, but in terms of going back out there, is this the start of a new run of more live shows?
Tim: I think so, see how it goes really. Get this tour out of the way, I think we need to find out how this tour’s going to go and go from there, but it’s going to be interesting to see what people think of the record.
Joe: It’s the first time we’ve had a recorded saxophone, so it’s different. Since 2019 We’ve been playing with Olsen as a full five-piece, so our sound has been there since then, but people listening to us on Spotify or wherever won’t have heard that.
It’s a great record, as I say, it really is punchy. It sort of reflects the live act a lot, better than some of the other stuff, whether that’s from the recording or the way that went.
Joe: Less wall of sound, less, sort of, epic guitars, more space, more sound. That was our whole criteria really when we went into the studio, we wanted to sound more like a band.
Chris W.: More band-in-the-room.
Yeah, and that definitely comes across. Well, brilliant. Thanks guys, I’m aware of the time and that your food is coming as well. So thanks very much. I appreciate that.
Joe: Thank you!
The last six months or so I’ve played A LOT of Poly-Math. I’ve been really looking forward to seeing you again. Fingers crossed and good luck for tonight. Thanks guys, give them hell – give me hell!
Joe: We will!
Chris O.: We’ll try not to get drunk, when we’re setting up a show…
All: IN A BREWERY! [laughter]
Chris O.: I’ve done fine so far.
Joe: I was like, “Do we have any water?” and they were like, “No, it’s just beer!”
Josh: When they said we could have the core beers for free or whatever, I asked “does that include the non-alcoholic beer?” “No, sorry.”
It’s a dirty job! It’s good fitting three bands in, the other two as well, it’s a hell of a line-up. I wasn’t going to miss that!
Joe: I’ve yet to see A Formal Horse play.
I saw them a few weeks ago and they were awesome, really good. Thumpermonkey I’ve seen loads of times.
Chris O.: It’s good to see Thumpermonkey in a good venue. They sounded really good in soundcheck.
Joe: Yeah, that’s true.
Josh: His voice, I don’t know how he sings that shit! What it is, sometimes it’s high-pitched but it also just jumps with lots of like, you know… [mimics Michael Woodman of Thumpermonkey] It really, really jumps.
It’s that resonance he’s got. With A Formal Horse soundchecking down there now, that sound alright to me!
Thank you guys, I appreciate that. Thank you all.
Joe: No worries. Hope you enjoy it!
I will! I’ll be coming to speak to you if I don’t! [laughter]
Poly-Math are currently on tour in the U.K. and Ireland, you can catch them at these remaining dates:
24/11/22 (Thu) – MANCHESTER, Satans Hollow
25/11/22 (Fri) – NEWCASTLE, Little Buildings