Music

Ticonderoga: self-titled

Hunter Felt

Post-rockers Ticonderoga... no wait, anti-folk experimentalists Ticonderoga... scratch that, Pavement inspired psych-country troubadours Ticonderoga... Oh forget it, Ticonderoga is just Ticonderoga.


Ticonderoga

Ticonderoga

Label: 54 40' or Fight!
US Release Date: 2005-03-15
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

Words cannot convey the dread that I felt when I heard the opening track "" "" (a difficult track to listen to as well as to type) from Raleigh, North Carolina trio Ticonderoga's self-titled debut album. Opening with an ominous organ chord, highlighted by a brief mournful blast of what sounds like a clarinet, the minute long sound sketch warned of a pretentious post-rock album full of painfully pointless scavenging of Jim O'Rourke's garbage bin. The last thing the world needs is another band that thinks it's being experimental when it's really just throwing together random sounds. Fortunately, "" "" is a bit of a joke to throw off listeners, as the band Ticonderoga -- despite their experimental leanings -- actually base their sound on a twisted sort of future-folk psychedelia.

If this description seems vague, which it probably is, it's because Ticonderoga itself is quite vague as a group. A Ticonderoga song will typically start with one sort of approach, often featuring a stripped down acoustic guitar and Phil Moore's Malkmus-esque vocals, but it will change into a different genre (and often tempo) within a minute's notice. "Kim & Kelly", for instance, starts as a gentle folk song and somehow mutates into a Tortoise-inspired instrumental without the listener's awareness. Ticonderoga's songs change directions quickly, but somehow these changes occur subliminally. A listener has a better chance of figuring out when exactly in their previous night's dream their dad became Harrison Ford than figuring out what exact point in a Ticonderoga song it became a thrashing rocker or a droning anthem.

Ticonderoga's unique vagueness -- their songs rarely succumb to include anything as banal as verses, choruses, or bridges -- also creeps into their line-up. Of the three members, the only thing the liner notes make certain is that Phil Moore is the primary vocalist, Wes Phillips probably plays the most drums, and any violin comes solely from the hands of Mark Paulson. The rest of the instrumentation is pretty much shared between the three of them. It's as useless to separate their particular parts as it is to attempt to split apart their songs into their component sections.

The three of them, according to the notes, are all the lead guitar player, which makes sense considering that despite Ticonderoga's experimental nature, Ticonderoga revolves around the power of the acoustic guitar. Despite the erratic Drumbo-style rhythm section and strange genre shifts, the core of Ticonderoga's sound seems to be rooted in the folk tradition. There is a sense of pure Americana in the music that provides solid footing for the band's noisy tangents. When Beck's anti-folk tracks first bubbled up to the mainstream, critics hailed the music's stream-of-conscious, pop-culture referencing lyrics as a new style of folk music for today's media-shortened attention span. Ticonderoga seem to be aiming for the same approach, that is, folk music that is gloriously corrupted by any influence one could name and refuses to remain still for any length of time. It scarcely matters whether the band is playing straight acoustic ballads or gritty rockers, it all seems connected to something ancient and perennial in America.

Again, I'm being vague. It's the music's fault, really. There is nothing concrete here on the album. Ticonderoga suggests more than it reveals. This acts to the band's benefit, as it certainly sounds like little else in either the post-rock scene or the burgeoning freak-folk movement. The album, sadly, suffers the same problem as most music that suggests a dream state: such music, like dreams themselves, fails to leave much impression on the waking mind. The only songs that really establish themselves as actual compositions are "Over the Hill", with its desperate cry of "I was wrong", and the semi-lucid album highlight "Two Old Witches", where Moore's vocals become surprisingly forceful and push Paulson's violin and Phillip's drumming into full gear. Ultimately, though, Ticonderoga's opaque nature makes delving into it and exploring it even more enjoyable. After all, what excites us human beings more than a mystery unsolved?

7

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7
Music

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image