The Needle Was Travelling
t seems post-rock Berliners Roland Lippok and Bernd Jestram have found a cozily fitting new place of dwelling with their hometown cronies Morr Music. The Needle Was Travelling marks the duo’s fifth proper full length, and the first to be released on Morr. Seems fitting, innit? Since the label gained US distribution one year ago, it seems to be reconfiguring its niche for a more pop/rock-saturated audience. With a recent plethora of rock-meets-‘lectronica releases by Lali Puna, Masha Qrella, Styrofoam, The Go Find, and Death Cab/Postal Service alum Ben Gibbard, Morr is now perfectly primed to release a full length by our abovementioned post-rock champions.
Perhaps surprisingly, the record is as song-oriented as most anything Radiohead has put forth. Tarwater is still essentially an electronic endeavor, but the gadgetry doesn’t get in the way of the songs’ craft. You know that kid with all the homemade, rope-based necklaces and way too many pairs of sandals? He swears up and down that he’ll never embrace any of that soulless, pulseless, tree-killing electronic music, as he tirelessly updates his blog. You know; his ringtone of choice lately has been a decently constructed MIDI of “Pink Moon,” and I swear I saw him tapping his foot to it. Busted!
In any case, next time you see him, tie his dreads to his rocking chair and force-feed him The Needle Was Travelling. I bet he’ll be able to stomach it. After listening to nothing but Devendra Banhart and Iron & Wine for three weeks straight, he’s totally forgotten there are other capable songwriters in the world. With this record, Tarwater proves they’re among the capable.
As with any Tarwater release, easy comparisons can be made to To Rococo Rot, Lippok’s sister project fronted by his bro Robert. However, The Needle Was Travelling has the least in common with the band’s decidedly less organic counterparts than any previous Tarwater album. The reason? Well, probably because it’s just plain more tuneful. “Entry” celebrates a ballad-inspired Kraut twang design and might prove irresistible to any Califone fan. For half a minute, the cold electronics of “Stone” would sound easily at home on a To Rococo Rot release until casual guitar strums ring bright and true. The album’s acoustic-laden hushed closer, “Home Tonight,” features the backing vocal antics of Dirk Dresselhaus (aka Schneider TM).
All in all, The Needle Was Travelling is probably the most “human” post-rock record to come out of Berlin. So giddy up! Shake your earthy jewelry and wax your Frisbees. This one’s as musical as it is tech-savvy.
Reviewed by: Will Simmons
Reviewed on: 2005-04-13