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Tetragrammaton - Elegy for Native Tongues (2008)


Tokyo-based free psych / drone trio Tetragrammaton, comprised of Tomo (hurdy-gurdy, saxophone, electronics), Cal Lyall (guitar, electronics) and Ken Nobunaga (drums, percussion) have managed to amass an impressive live reputation in their homeland, having supported Kenji Heino on numerous occasions, whilst also collaborating live on stage with guests including members of Acid Mother’s Temple and ex-Can singer Damo Suzuki. While Tetragrammaton have been performing live for some time now however, this two disc set ‘Elegy For Native Tongues’, the debut release from Tokyo label Subvalent represents their first widely available recorded output. According to the liner notes, the five tracks comprising the first studio disc were recorded straight to 4-track during late 2007, but given the sheer detail and vividness packed into its 67 minutes, you’d never expect that they’d opted for such comparatively low-tech methods. Expansive 17 minute long opening track ‘The Ghosts Won’t Starve But We Will Perish’ sees Tetragrammaton following a drone / noise approach clearly influenced by the likes of Hototogisu and Vibracathedral Orchestra, with textural flurries of rapidly struck percussion and broad guitar drones gradually shifting towards psych-damaged jazz that almost rolls with a sense of ragged bravado as Tomo’s spiralling saxophone solos rear out of the background amidst repetitively chiming guitar chords and sudden snare breakdowns.


It’s certainly ‘widescreen’ stuff that would lend itself beautifully to soundtracking visuals, the clustered drum breakdowns and wildly contorted sax soloing of the title track particularly calling to mind Ornette Coleman’s spectacular soundtrack to Cronenberg’s ‘Naked Lunch’ , while ‘Kohelet Revisited’ manages to introduce some sinister Eastern European atmospheres as subtly placed hurdy-gurdy elements trail amidst a thick fog of shearing guitar drones, clattering snares and hissing ambient textures. By contrast, the second live disc, recorded at Tokyo’s Penguin House in July 2007 sees Tetragrammaton in a considerably more extrovert mode, with the four expansive tracks seeing things approaching more of an incandescent Sun Ra Arkestra-esque vibe, complete with soaring saxaphone runs and even the appearance of free-flowing vocal tone improvisation at points, resulting in a listening experience that almost manages to eclipse the first studio disc. An extremely impressive debut release from Tetragrammaton and Subvalent that’s made all the more appealing by Yumikofu’s gorgeously twisted sleeve illustrations. (cyclicdefrost)

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