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Spine And Sensory , 7/10
Dream Signals In Full Circles , 6.5/10
Album Leaf: An Orchestrated Rise to Fall , 6/10
Album Leaf: One Day I'll Be On Time (2001), 4/10
Album Leaf: In A Safe Place (2004), 4/10
A Colores (2005) , 6/10
Album Leaf: Into the Blue Again (2006), 6/10
En Nuestro Desafio (2006), 5/10
Album Leaf: A Chorus of Storytellers (2010), 4/10

(Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

Tristeza, a quintet (Luis Hermosillo on bass, Jimmy Lehner on drums , Stephen Swesey on keyboards, Jimmy Lavalle and Christopher Sprague on guitars) from San Diego, debuted with the single Foreshadow/ Smoke Through Glass (Caffeine vs. Nicotine).

The slow, gentle, minimalistic instrumentals of Spine And Sensory (Makoto, 1999) presented Tristeza's instrumental rock as new-age music's version of post-rock. Golden Hill indulges in a repetitive pattern that weaves a dense tapestry drenched in a sense of peace and merriment. Cinematography crafts a celestial atmosphere around interlocking piano, flute and guitar patterns. A faster and more turbulent pace propels Beige Finger, whereas the fibrillating Electrolytes leaves almost nothing to human intervention. The guitars keep building their geometric lattices in abstract spaces that are scoured by robust rhythms for traces of melody. A real melody surfaces in Memphis Emphasis, but only to be recycled in that same machine-like style. The longest piece, When We Glow (eight minutes), is the most challenging of these guitar-driven jams that nod at bluegrass, jazz and surf music but never quite pick a genre. And the haunting, suspenseful, dub-tinged emptiness of RMS 5000 casts a dark shadow on the proceedings. The whole lends itself to both eastern meditation and mathematical speculation.

The single Macrame (Rocket Racer, 1999) is almost bedroom-pop. Dream Signals In Full Circles (Tiger Style, 2000) repeats the magic of the first album. The secret to Tristeza's instrumental rock is subtlety and an almost spiritual art of repetition. The guitars weave their intense prayers by playing tiny variations of a simple theme over geometric and old-fashioned rhythms, and over the distant rumbling of the most humble keyboards in rock history. While the melodic tapestries of Building Peaks and Opiate Slopes are quite catchy, in general their art shuns spectacular moves and favors an intimate, domestic, colloquial style. The colorful scales and trance-inducing cycles of Respira, the tender and delicate tinkling of Shifty Drifty, the dreamy and effervescent resonance of I Am a Cheetah, the peaceful adagio of Chiaroscuro are more in the style of John Fahey than in the style of contemporary post-rock. They rarely turn brainy, and, even when they do (City of the Future, one of the most evocative pieces), they avoid the discordant, harsh counterpoint of progressive-rock. For a few seconds Aurora Borealis sounds like an outtake from Neu's first album, but the hammering soon turns into pointillism.
The fundamental unity of the album is also its only drawback, as the technique does not offer a broad range of variants. This does not detract from the fact that Tristeza has achieved an impressive degree of abstraction in its music.

The remix album Mixed Signals (Rocket Racer, 2002) and the EP These Walls (Gravity, 2002) were a poor appendix to the album.

Album Leaf is Jimmy LaValle's side project. The music on An Orchestrated Rise to Fall (Music Fellowship, 2000) is not too different from Tristeza's, it is merely less structured and less "hummable". Scored for keyboards, guitars and ambient noise, it evokes late King Crimson. However, One Day I'll Be On Time (Tiger Style, 2001), the five-song EP Seal Beach (2003 - Better Looking, 2005) and In A Safe Place (Subpop, 2004) were mostly undistinguished attempts at glitch-pop. Album Leaf came into its own with Into the Blue Again (Subpop, 2006), coloring LaValle's songs with an existential and timidly dissonant digital ambience that was reminiscent of Sigur Ros. Red Eye even targeted the dancefloor.

Folloowing Jimmy LaValle's split with the band, the 7-song EP Espuma (Gravity, 2004) was Tristeza's least inspired work yet, a set of experiments that betray a lack of direction.

Tristeza's A Colores (Better Looking, 2005) was one of their most accomplished festivals of the unpredictable. An impressive number of instrumentals (Bromas, Balabaristas, Abrazo Distante, La Tierra Sutil, Aereoaviones, Halo Heads) hint at catchy melodies only to implement them in the most awkwardly creative way and to rapidly dismantle them according to some masochistic aesthetic. The quintet also spends more time toying with timbres and polyphony. Somehow the departure of Jimmy LaValle has created a new equilibrium within the band, with bassist Luis Hermosillo and drummer James Lehner providing shaky rhythmic foundations for the twisted flow of stylistic gestures by keyboardist Sean Ogilive and guitarists Christopher Sprague and Alison Ables.

Tristeza's En Nuestro Desafio (2006) exudes a stronger sense of alienation and disorientation, but the first eight tracks are basically unfinished thoughts and the only one that truly stands out, the nine-minute En Nuestro Desafio is not enough to justify and album. The accompanying DVD adds 12 more vignettes that may be more concerned with the visual aspect than the sonic one.

The Album Leaf returned with A Chorus of Storytellers (2010), a rather bland parade of mellow and cute folk-rock.

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