Thursday, May 27, 2010

Terraform's "Temporal Junk"

Maybe this blog is totally dead now (and for my part I confess I don’t exactly write at a blog-sustaining pace) but . . . I still love rock music, and I especially enjoy when bands question the elements of rock that get taken for granted, while still conveying the sense of the physical and the immediate so prized throughout the genre’s fifty-odd years.

On their cassette “Temporal Junk,” Portland, OR’s aptly named Terraform [], barely two years into their existence, reshape a familiar musical landscape into something alien yet no less inviting. If there is one immediate carryover from past tradition, it might be in the drums’ providing of the time-honored forward momentum. The bass left to its own devices might be playing something akin to standard riffs, but it certainly doesn’t mirror the guitar parts, which are modulated into a percussive crunch for the bass and drums to texturally, as opposed to tonally, outline. Vocalist Ryan yelps over his scrambled strings, goes “Ugh!” at the end of some songs, and pleads, for exactly what it’s not immediately clear. It adds up to even more incongruity between the previously mentioned elements. What’s more, his voice at times sounds like it’s engaged in a bizarre convo with the saxophone, the latter of which is to me Terraform’s secret weapon. Sax player Katarina’s parts consist of a lot of aggressive squeaks and human speech-like bleats, which shudder and refuse to neatly line up with anything else going on in the mix. It sounds delightfully wretched, accidental, free of any overt genre references, and it faintly recalls to my ears the synth-derived blurts of Pere Ubu’s Allen Ravenstine, though she’s using non-electronic means to arrive at a similar conclusion (or maybe “challenge” is a more appropriate word here). It takes guts to sound this much like you seemingly don’t know what you’re doing, and she pulls it off incredibly well, bizarre phrasing, extended technique, and all.

“Temporal Junk” can be purchased from Karamazov Tapes:

Terraform also have the audio available for download from their Myspace, which is fine and dandy, but someone with the interest and wherewithal should seriously consider putting this out on a 12” @ 45 rpm. Their approach and material merit it.