Release DetailsLABEL Anticulture Records
RELEASED ON 9/18/2007
posted on 12/2007 By:
Nineteen seconds into “Vietnamese Killing Queens”, Tangaroa drops this ascending/descending, kinda circular riff, that is just jaw-dropping. It’s like old The End meets old Extol, but played in this fluid style that’s all their own. I can’t help but keep rewinding the track and marveling at its brilliance; the way it stutters and flutters, the way the bass drum accents the notes in a Meshuggahian fashion, the way that its on-the-surface minimalism masks just how much of a bitch it must be to play. I can barely trick my pinky into becoming a serviceable button masher on Guitar Hero, so hearing this riff played so effortlessly boggles my mind and turns on a piece of my brain that’s usually reserved for going nutty over amazing athletes in their prime. And, there is something rather athletic about what Tangaroa has done on this stretch of record, something that’s not so much about music, but more about pure skill on display. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure their knowledge of music theory is far beyond my own, but I don’t compartmentalize that section in that way. It’s more akin to a Barry Sanders run, a breathtaking exhibition of physical virtuosity; a rare glimpse at what can transpire when years of hard work and raw talent combine. I love the riff, I just absolutely love it.
It’s also the only damn thing I remember about the album after it’s done spinning.
It pains me to say that shit. My ears aren’t made of Teflon, especially when it comes to this style. I’d like to think that I have more patience to dissect the widdlies than most, but there’s something about Day that just doesn’t want to stick with me. The thing is though, I can’t quite explain why this doesn't work for me in an intellectual way; at least, in a way that requires more thought than “It just ain’t clickin’.” And, that's what makes this so frustrating; it should click. It really should, because Tangaroa, even at this early stage of their careers, are pros at pulling these songs together and taking a multitude of old tech standbys and fitting them into their vision while never losing what makes the band sound fairly unique.
Here’s what I mean: The aforementioned impact of The End and Extol on these lads from Leeds is made clear on nearly every track, especially the bit o’ blackness vocals that sit pretty close to Synergy/Burial’s get-this-guy-a-lozenge howls. Then, there’s the unavoidable Meshuggah comparison, one that I hate to make since so very few bands strive to be/should be considered clones. The smart Swedes' mark is left all over the band's music, sure, but Tangaroa definitely is not a clone, as they distance themselves enough from jazz/fusion not to be caught in the polyrhythmic and Holdsworth-aping nets that trap most admirers. Case in point, when “Vietnamese Killing Queens” drops into a I/Catch-33-esque quiet bit with undistorted strums, they don’t try to infuse the break with Derek Bailey-inspired weirdness, preferring to stay closer to the kind of mechanical interludes that Curl Up and Die used to use as rest stops. Through it all, and most importantly, Tangaroa remains Tangaroa, certainly not some cheap imitation or held-together-by-duct-tape combination of their influences, which is quite admirable considering this is just EP number two. They exude that special confidence, knowing that their borrowing isn't going to be misconstrued as pilfering. Why? Because they know that they're not tied directly to whatever bands helped shape their base and that they’ve built on that base enough to develop their own sound. The influences are very apparent, yes, but when they’re used to help construct that ascending/descending ditty, one has few complaints.
Few complaints that is, except for my major one. I hate myself for continuing to bring this up, but nothing grabs a hold of me except for a certain little riff that I’ve already gushed about. Part of that is because Day is rather one-note and part of that is because the musicianship is meant to take the place of hooks/catchy bits and, predictably, it doesn’t. It’s when I listen to albums like Day that I realize why now-maligned outfits like The End, Extol, and The Dillinger Escape Plan have left tech for the dust; it’s so much work to create something that never really lasts. The music decays in the mind of the listener like an unstable element, leaving me with a memory of Tangaroa that’s vague and unspecific. The runs, the sweep-picks, the ingenious guitar interplay on the segue “Dance” all fade when I hit stop, because there‘s just so much of it to process and take in. But, that’s being unfair. Maybe one just needs to listen to Day more to fully grasp what the band is giving us. I had a teacher once that said, and I’m paraphrasing, you only remember ten percent of what you’re taught. So, maybe I’m just taking away ten percent of Tangaroa’s complex songwriting with every listen, assembling it piece by piece in my head, and, once that’s complete, this will hit me with the kind of force that I keep wanting to get floored by. And, if you're like me, you might be the same way. But, the question then is, do you want to give this EP that many plays? That’s something I can’t really answer for you, but I can say this: there’s one riff on here that answers that question for me every time. Check out their ‘Space and give ‘em a shot. At the very least, me thinks there are good things on the horizon.
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