posted on 8/2011 By:
Did I cross the line? That all depends on whether or not you consider 'tapping the source' for an album review a viable form of journalistic technique, i.e. reaching out to one-half of Trillion Red in the interest of getting to the bottom of this Two Tongues EP. It's an interesting listen, to say the least. To say the most, it's one of the more successful combinations of ten or so random influences that I've ever heard, to the point that I just absolutely had to break through the barrier and have a chat with TR's creator and multi-instrumentalist, Patrick Brown. During my research into this quasi-mysterious dynamic duo, I came across several reviews of this EP, and it seemed to have brought out the tantrums in a few critics. Terms like 'shoegaze' and 'indie rock' were being thrown around, and thrown around hard, to the point of giving them an almost accusatory tone. It didn't sit with me. So I thought I'd even one-up myself and take on Trillion Red and its author by seeking the truth.
Well, for starters, Trillion Red was conceived in blasphemy. It's factual. And Patrick helped me to understand that. There's a history of violence here, twenty years deep, and it started with a teenage kid and a lust to find all that was dirty and sick through, as he so eloquently put it, "rich chaotic sounds", a.k.a. Swedish death metal. So he plowed his way through the early 90's clamping tight that youth and sickness, and calling these band-forms of cathartic release such names as Nepenthe, and later, Ligeia. Demo cassette tapes and 7"s were released. To the casual onlooker, it would seem that nothing much came of these little tributes to dark childhood fantasies. But au contraire...
To state the obvious, most people expand their musical horizons while keeping open, at least somewhat, a line of communication with their roots. This recording consists of what was once skeletal material written and compiled between the years of 2007 and 2009 in grim, frosty San Francisco. In 2009, Patrick met drummer, Max, and they started to wrap the loosely written material in flesh. The full-embodiment of the Two Tongues was completed and captured in 2010, and was unveiled to the press earlier this year. Now at some point between the death of Ligeia and the birth of TR, there was a serious influx of musical variety taking place within the mind of the TR creator. Bands like Shiner and Calexico started to fight for space alongside mainstays like Samael and Beherit. We can start here when trying to put our finger on the overall Trillion Red sound. When they declared themselves "a unique blend of hammering ambiance and dark rhythms", they hit the nail right on the coffin.
Trillion Red has become Patrick's fallout shelter for a love of too many bands, but not entirely to a fault. In fact, there is nary a misstep to be found here. While 'shoegaze' and 'indie rock' are no doubt ingredients in Two Tongues taking on this form of 'post-everything', don't rule out the aforementioned history with brutal youth, and what sounds like an unintentional brush with post-punk as well. All four of these songs showcase points of twilight introspection; dark they are. And frankly, there's not much that separates them from the kind of now-sound that say, an Ulver, or even a Samael have shed their skin to show off; still charred at heart, just a bit twisted and reaching in every direction from there on out. For example, opening track, "No Visible Help (Hold Tight!)", is touched by the left-of-center in slight nods to Killing Joke in its vocal approach and pseudo-industrial flair, the primitive sonic sheen of post-punkers Big Black, and the use of subtle, macabre theatrics to fill in some of the blanks. The three songs that follow are essentially different takes on the same formula; sonic, textural, seldom psychedelic, and guided straight on through by guitars (specifically, in the case of guitar-guidance, check the closers "Right Over To The Helm" and "Lullaby"). That's the key selling point with the decision to put this short-player into rotation repeatedly, that the anchor here is heavy, and that the anchor is the strings and their ability to keep this craft on course.
Mr. Brown's time spent with the angular in the 'indie rock' after younger years with gnarly Euro-death makes for a truly interesting collision of worlds. And if you must label it, feel free to file under 'Slow Post-BM Roller Coaster Rides... Or Something'. If Trillion Red seems just a tad bit unfocused at present, wBands at this point in their career, bands that have done far worse, have gone on to fly high the flag for the perverse.
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