Sunday 29th JanuaryJanuary 30, 2012
Tonight a double vinyl by the Swiss trio of Christian Weber, (contrabass) Jeroen Visser (organ and electronics) and Jason Kahn (drums, yes, drums…) The group perform under the name Tetras and this album is due out soon on the FlingCo Sound label, who were kind enough to send me an advance link to digital files of the music. The label’s press page about the album lists a number of lofty comparisons that could be made to Tetras’ music; Can, this Heat, Sun Ra, Electric-era Miles, Steve Reich and Phill Niblock are all mentioned, I suspect by the label rather than by the group themselves, but certainly with reference to most of those names this music has a lot to live up to.
The release is named Pareidolia and isn’t quite the improvised music affair we might come to expect when the likes of Kahn and Weber are concerned. The music here probably is improvised, in that it emerged from a series of very long jam sessions in Visser’s Zurich studio that probably didn’t begin with any kind of set structure, but the music here sets its own path as it develops, utilising simple percussive rhythms wrapped around equally minimal baselines (but yes, real baselines) and shimmering, droning organ tones and electronics to form what is actually quite accessible, foot-tapping music.
Of the list of potential influences/comparisons, the one that really strikes a chord with me is Can. The four pieces here each remind me of that great German group a lot, a kind of neat blend between the dub by psychedelia of albums like Tago Mago and the later, more firmly rhythmic Future Days. Kahn sticks mostly to percussion rather than full-on drums, playing mostly tinkling chimes and fizzing cymbals, but with that high-stepping snare drum giving the music a propulsive edge. Weber’s bass reminds me a lot of prime period Holger Czukay, understated and monotonous but also somehow finding the perfect pulse for the music with the most minimal of contributions. Visser brings the most abstract aspects to the music, working mostly with droning chords but also bringing some squelchy, sometimes quite aggressive electronics to the fore that again remind me of Can, but somehow also keeps the music in touch with the less structured music the other two are normally associated with. I have never come across Visser before, so I don’t unfortunately know anything about othe music he has made.
I really didn’t think i would ever write this here in these pages, but this album is groovy… (replace with whatever the acceptably trendy term might be these days). This isn’t really drone-based work, but my response to it is similar to how I usually hear that area of music, in that I find it quite a different experience to listening to more fragmented improvisation- an easier listen if you like, not so much from the cheesier end of such a statement, but simply because its less of a task to get what I want from the music. It flows past and you let it fill the space around you as it does so. Pareidolia adds the extra dimension of the foot taperingly infectious rhythms to the equation, so I not only let the music drift by, but it had me rocking back and forth in my chair as it went. Now, usually I struggle with this vague area of music. Freely crafted rhythmic jams with an abstract edge to them are normally the domain of groups like Radian and The Necks, both of whom I struggle to connect with. Tetras somehow feels different, perhaps as a direct result of the Can references, which take me right back to my youth. For a couple of years in my late teens Can were the one band I liked more than any other. I actually remember writing a review of one of their albums (I forget which) for a tiny, overly serious, horrendously amateur fanzine and apologising at the start for describing it as groovy as such a word was frowned upon in its grubbily photocopied, pathetically conceited pages. Little changes eh?
So this is a nice album, one that has worked well over the past few days left to purr away behind me while I do other things, and also really great driving music. Its not a purely rhythmic thing, the burning electronics often throw the music away from any groove, with the insistent white noise that is layered through much of Pareidolia II a great example, but what makes this album quite different to much else I enjoy, and therefore making it quite hard to compare to very much lease I listen to, but after a week of pretty intense listening, including a day of ten hours of pretty austere music its been good to sprinkle this album throughout it, and its probably very ironic that I’m more likely to take this one backdown off the shelves when I’m in the right mood than almost anything else I write about here.