Tera Melos, a post-rock quartet from Sacramento, debuted with the brainy,
erudite, articulate "melodies" of
Tera Melos (2005 - Sargent House, 2010).
Each of the eight instrumentals appears to be the exact opposite of a melody,
but the project is not cacophony for the sake of cacophony.
If the hyper-syncopated guitar lines and irregular drumbeats of
Melody 2 are a good introduction to the noise aesthetics of the quartet,
and the vibrant Melody 4 discloses remote links to hardcore, the
nine-minute Melody 5 is more revealing with its transformation into
a surreal music-box refrain, and Melody 6 even evokes pop-metal,
and Melody 7 is as user-friendly as this music can get.
Most of these unstructured organisms rely on the most tenuous of cartilages.
The fake-melodic pretext, however, totally breaks down in the
29-minute Melody 8, an apocalyptic noise jam that is closer to
Borbetomagus and Supersilent
than to abstract sound painting; an electrocuted mayhem that initially straddles
the border with hardcore,
all processed until it becomes
android voices surfacing from an aquatic churning of monk-like drones,
obliterated by a hurricane of guitar dissonance,
filtered through a
decrepit factory of rusty rudimentary machines, then reduced to pure debris
left to drift under the control of stridently distorted voices,
then lost in a landscape of squeaking blurping sounds of synthetic forms of
life in a post-nuclear jungle,
Tera Melos' guitarist Nick Reinhart teamed up with avant-drummer Zach Hill
for a new project, Bygones, documented on
By (Sargent House, 2009) and
Spiritual Bankruptcy (Sargent House, 2010).
Drugs/Complex (Sargent House, 2010) compiles the six instrumentals of the EP Drugs to the Dear Youth (2007) and the five songs from the split album Complex Full of Phantoms (2007).
The band was now pared down to a classic power-trio, with the
rhythm section of bassist Nathan Latona and new drummer John Clardy.
Unfortunately, the music tends towards the bombastic and the hyperactive
The eight-minute 40 Rods to the Hog's Head (08:11) is certainly
a showcase of creative drumming, but it is also emblematic of how
incoherent and stubbornly introverted the album is in general.
The fact that it is also very fragmented (several pieces don't make to two
minutes) compounds the problem: the listener is asked to appreciate what
is fundamentally a self-appointed mission to reform guitar-based music
but without the benefit of actually listening to a finished product.
We are only presented with blueprints. For example,
one of these microscopic vignettes, Is Good For What Ails You, has ten
seconds of truly magical sounds (at the very end); and that's perhaps all
there is of truly successful in the whole EP.
The five songs (with vocals) of the split album are maginally more interesting,
starting with the grotesque fanfare of Party With Tina and ending
with the album punk-pop of Last Smile For Jaron. In between we are
treated to an ambient noisescape, Melody 9. But too much is unfocused,
amateurish, and, worse, pretentious.
In search of greater accessibility, Patagonian Rats (Sargent House, 2010) was an awkward attemp at metabolizing pop vocals.
Dour rhythms and jagged guitar phrases coexist with
simple vocal melodies (notably The Skin Surf)
parody of the era of the Beatles, Monkees and Turtles,
with the eight-minute Trident Tail and the ten-minute Party With Gina
mocking the earliest suites of the Who and the Zombies.
More interesting is the mechanical rhythm and the insistent psychedelic vocals
of Frozen Zoo.
The EPs Zoo Weather (2011) and Echo On The Hills Of Knebworth (2011) refined the idea, and
X'ed Out (Sargent House, 2013) zeroed on the melodies.
Only distantly related to the original band, this new edition of Tera Melos
has fully regressed to a dull Brit-pop stage, best represented by
the feel-good singalong Weird Circles
and the upbeat, effervescent Sunburn.
Their most adventurous moves are the slightly deranged shoegaze-pop New Chlorine
and the celestial drum-less new-age hymn No Phase (with second vocalist Aurielle Zeitler).
Imagine if Syd Barrett had no melodic talent
and Robert Fripp had broken all the fingers
of his right hand.
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