Forget what you thought you knew about Tarentel as kissing cousins of Mono and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Sometime between 2004’s We Move Through Weather and 2007’s deranged Ghetto Beats on the Surface of the Sun, the San Francisco collective dropped all noodly post-rock conventions and began summoning soot-covered sonic assaults. Live Edits: Italy/Switzerland collects performances from their 2005 tour immediately following the release of their EPs Paper White and Big Black Square, just around the time when they began to change course. They were a trio at that point, consisting of constants Jefre Cantu-Ledesma and Danny Grody and new recruit Jim Redd. It’s hard to imagine former members Trevor Montgomery (now of Lazarus) and Jeffrey Rosenberg (now of Lavender Diamond) even being in the audience.
As per the title, Live Edits isn’t a sequential account of the tour but a patchwork of individual live tracks edited to create an end-to-end experience. Only a few Swiss and Italian people know whether it’s representative of Tarentel’s sets from start to finish, but in a way it doesn’t matter, since the tracks fall into a unique arrangement that makes for difficult but often gripping listening. The record literally begins with a bang, when “Lugano, Switzerland” tricks attendees into thinking the equipment has just blown out, before sliding into the first “Geneva, Switzerland”, Live Edits’ signal moment. It’s a clenched, no-nonsense, doped-up tribal drum workout in the vein of Big Black Square that justifies all 12 of its minutes, the sort of noise-and-percussion bombast the Shalabi Effect once did so well. It’s also a red herring, as the record then plunges into a drumless vortex of digital detritus, delay pedals and occasional melodicism. The two tracks entitled “Massa Carrara, Italy” provide glimpses of a peculiar beauty we might never have heard from Tarentel if they hadn’t taken such risks; tellingly, the prettier one appears last, a clear respite for those who make it through. Not every track rewards engagement (the second “Geneva, Switzerland” is pretty boring), but Live Edits’ summative effect is as cryptically exotic as the cities in which it took place.