Tristeza
Mania Phase
Gravity Records
2002
D+

the main problem with Tristeza’s output, thus far, is that it’s been so easy to ignore. It’s the eternal struggle with instrumental post rock, of course. When peeling the layers beneath Spine and Sensory and Dream Signals and Circles, it is easy to find the sonic intricacies beneath. But it takes work. And, unfortunately, a very important aspect of music is how immediate and confrontational it is. With Tristeza, the confrontation only took place underneath where a large number of interesting things were going on, but on a surface level there was fluff. A truly successful piece of art will arrest the viewer immediately and allow layers to be revealed upon repeated listens, making it both visceral and thoughtful.


On its newest release, with the help of some outside musicians, the group goes far in achieving these aims. Unfortunately, when utilizing the members of the group only, the band falls into the same traps that made their previous two albums pleasant, but unessential. Mania Phase starts off with a short introductory track which sounds much like a dot matrix printer meshing with a oscillating keyboard and an orchestral sample. It is an interesting piece of music, but an ultimately forgettable one- if it weren’t for the music that comes after it. The group tunes up at the beginning of “Stop Grass” for a minute and a half until a jaunty Neu-like beat comes in setting the mood. It sounds like the same old Tristeza settling into a stolid groove that appears to go nowhere fast. The group flows like this for a while, mining territory that has been explored both in their previous two albums quite well. The recording quality offers the only thing of interest in the song, as it sounds as if the band has, for lack of a better word, dirtier sound that it has had on its recent work. The song ends as it had started, in relative chaos, which is probably the most interesting portion of the song considering this is a tactic that the group has not explored much.


“Japan Mountain” is, admittedly, a beautiful short track which is reminiscent, perhaps of an aural haiku. The track, however is both short and features apparently few of the members of the band playing their normal instruments.


It is on “Auxilo Mare” that the group breaks free of the constraints that have hampered their work, thus far. Bringing in a trumpet and baritone sax for the song, the group plays a normal Tristeza smoky groove, allowing the two instruments to solo and freely play on top of the sonic bed. The effect is one that points towards a direction that Tristeza should highly consider on their next full length. The saxophone drunkenly stumbles into view amid the chaos and plays a mournful melodic line, as the trumpet counterpoints, sounding as if it was recorded in the room behind- shouting into the Teutonic rhythm that the group unwittingly is laying down without regard for anyone else.


The song crackles and burns with an intensity found on few other Tristeza songs on other records and is a shining moment on this EP. The group appears to have taken the liberty of experimenting on this work for Gravity Records. While this is a great thing, they might benefit from a bit more experimentation in their sound on their proper full lengths.


Reviewed by: Todd Burns
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01
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