Release DetailsLABEL Arclight Records
RELEASED ON 6/12/2007
posted on 8/2007 By:
While their decision to name themselves after an old b-movie starlet is a bit of an eyebrow raiser (and probably more so if you’re confusing the name with the chick from Wayne’s World), the backward looking perspective seems well within character for Tia Carrera. The Austin, Texas three-piece may not be able to be cleanly pigeonholed as retro-rock, but there’s more than enough tie-dyed, psychedelic guitar wailing here to catch the undivided attention of the stoner rock crowd. Well, as undivided as that gets, anyway. In truth, it’s tough to completely nail down the band’s sound, and outside the context of a review, not even relevant.
Heaven/Hell is packaged as an EP--quite misleading considering its thirty three minute runtime-- and is mostly made up of the dichotomy-based title tracks. That’s also a bit of a misnomer, as these songs aren’t nearly as different in approach as their names suggest. Both “Heaven” and “Hell” are marathon sessions that have as much to do with the ethos of Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan as the likes of Black Sabbath and Kyuss. Clocking in at around fifteen minutes apiece, the songs are less...well, songs, and more extended, improvisational and completely instrumental jams. Their style, when combined with their lean three-piece structure, gives the material a fantastic wholly organic, live feel. The album is mostly uptempo, and focused on hazy, resin coated guitar leads, while the drumming alternates between creative support and taking a lead role. As solid as the bass work is, it would be nice to hear it take a prominent approach more often, rather than anchoring its more charismatic counterparts.
At first blush this material comes off as little more than overblown excursions of improv soloing, but a few spins of the album reveals its subtleties, including how incredibly well the band members play off one another. Take “Heaven”, which opens like a lion with truckloads of wailing leads, which are matched with an endless supply of energetic drum fills and variations. But when the guitar eventually slows down, the drums press the issue, shifting into a busier, near tribal aggression. It’s not like turn-based improvisational music, but a case of the players maximizing support to each other. “Hell” takes a similar if only slightly darker and sometimes slower direction. None of the material is actually riff-based, but this track has sections that come the closest. The album is capped by a shorter untitled track that sounds like the rest of the material, and at three minutes is cut off by what is reported to be the sound of the tape reel ending. I would be remiss not to also mention the stellar Rachel Kolar artwork throughout the packaging.
Regardless of the lack of melodic footholds that more traditionally structured songs provide, Heaven/Hell ends up being far more compelling than you’d expect. Thirty minutes of this stuff is enough to make even a deadhead glance at his watch, and even if this “EP” doesn’t run long for you, chances are when it ends you’ll be ready to move along to something else. Heaven/Hell may not ever dominate your playlist, but is more than capable of holding its own in the rotation. Whether you’re a fan of instrumental rock, of genre melding, or you’re simply very, very stoned, Tia Carrera’s creative and unique offering is worth checking out.
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