Temporary Residence is one of the most consistently satisfying labels around. Although much of their output defies casual description, and as such serves as a source of perpetual frustration for hard-working critics such as myself, albums like We Move Through Weather remain striking and distinctively compelling.
Post-rock, if this is indeed the name for this genre, is a particularly flabby hook to hang one’s proverbial hat on. The genre would seem to encompass pretty much any kind of music produced in the rock idiom without benefit of the verse-chorus-verse format or pleasant lyrical accompaniment—which, when you think of it, is actually a fairly large and varied group of musicians. There seems to be a looming event horizon as well, where post-rock, free jazz, IDM and post-modernist composition are reaching the same boundaries and coming to startlingly similar musical conclusions. John Zorn and Squarepusher could and probably do peacefully coexist just fine on your average hipster’s iPod. There are only so many reference points to be shared among so many musicians of similar interests and inclinations: scrape the surface of a post-rock geek and chances are that you’ll find the same DNA—Ornette Coleman and Karlheinz Stockhausen—that lies under the skin of your average ECM aficionado.
Tarentel, like the modernist composers of the ‘60s and ‘70s, are primarily concerned with the idea of texture. Phrases and melodies are repeated throughout static compositions, building in intensity as layers are slowly added. The key to the construction and deconstruction is texture: the grain of the sound, the heft and balance of the noise as it hits your ear. This is not an album that rewards impatience, with two songs crossing the fifteen minute mark. There are no grand movements or blustering climaxes. All motion is relative and gradual. Sounds wane and wax with the implacable inevitability of tidal forces, their meanings becoming eventually clear through the opaque filter of structure.
The album begins with “Hello! We Move Through Weather!”, which serves as a perfect introduction to the album’s philosophical quietude. A hideous noise slowly rises out of the silence, a monstrous, stomping drum beat surrounded by a swirling locust of squonky noise, building over the course of the first four minutes into a primal intensity. And then the noise dies down, leaving the imperturbable drum beat marching alone. Other noises gradually join the beat, gentle guitar chords and melodic phrases, accompanied by long, sustained notes that almost resemble elongated samples of a lap-steel guitar. Eventually the secondary melodies totally supplant the driving drumbeat, leaving the song on a humbly elegant note. In the course of three distinct movements primal chaos has been subsumed by baleful order, and that order has been subsumed in turn by an elegiac beauty.
Other songs follow this kind of intuitive pattern, flowing from tension to relief, from chaos to a natural, reflexive release. The album’s longest track, “Get Away From Me, You Clouds Of Doom”, begins with a frenetic drumbeat accompanied by sinister and dissonant synthesizer phrases. Eventually the drums give way to these harshly artificial synthesized textures. Over the course of the second half of the song these harsh textures themselves eventually fade away, leaving their inspiration naked: a single languid, melancholy guitar strumming quietly and slowly in the darkness. In the space of sixteen minutes another transformation has taken place, as complexity and conflict give way to simplicity and resolution.
Tarentel have recorded one of the most muscularly intelligent albums to cross my path in quite some time. There’s a lot of beauty here, and a lot of room for quiet contemplation. The spaces between the stars are vast and empty, and Tarentel are mapping the void, slowly but surely, star by star.
// Notes from the Road
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