Thursday, August 26, 2010

Album Review: Tera Melos Pantagonian Rats

It's hard to pin down the sound of Tera Melos' full-length debut Pantagonian Rats. The songs--with titles like "The Skin Surf," "Aped," and "Trident Trail"--include everything from crashing guitars drowned in distortion to eerie background vocals and a jazz combo. And perhaps that's the point. But what is clear is that Tera Melos know a good musical hook when they hear it, and Pantagonian Rats is full of them.

Album opener "So Occult," sets the experimental mood, with other-worldly samples and whispered vocals before a roaring wall of guitars and electronic effects break the tension in "Kelly." Rather than explore one or two ideas, Tera Melos seem intent on cramming every impulse into each song, changing styles and tempos in a split second. For instance "The Skin Surf," starts with non-stop drum fills and straightforward, midtempo rock before descending into a frenzy of frenetic riffs

Watery, ambient sounds introduce"Trident Trails," colliding with a driving guitar and drum attack while vocalist Nick Reinhart supplies smooth harmonies and sings "There's not enough hours in a day." The band must have taken this statement to heart, as the music changes into a stutter-stop tempo before slowing down to an acoustic-style ballad that then morphs into a smoky jazz tune, complete with a saxophone solo. Although "Frozen Zoo," with its blasts of lean guitar and rolling bass, adds a dash of funk to the proceedings, the band makes sure to amp up the weird factor with Twilight Zone-sounding samples that sound like a signal to phone home.

Such sonic experimentation could easily come off as one big mess, but Tera Melos have the musical and technical chops to pull it off. If there are any draws back to all the stylistic changes, it is that it pulls the attention away from everything else. The production is so interesting that the lyrics and vocals almost become an afterthought. Fortunately the music provides more than enough material to discover new sounds and tricks upon each listen. Pantagonian Rats is a bizarre album in the best sense of the word.


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