Tomorrow Becomes You (Western Vinyl, 02.2010)
For: Dirty Three, Daniel Bjnarsson, Sonna
Byline: Western Vinyl tops itself again and releases hands-down the best neo-classical/post-rock album of the past couple years.
Wayne Coyne infamously said, "I play the recording studio" when asked what about his contributions beyond fronting the Flaming Lips. In many ways composer/musical think-tank Christopher Tignor could claim the same thing, but add, "I play the computer". On a first, second, or third listen of Slow Six's third full length Tomorrow Becomes you it is unapparent how much electronic manipulation went into forming the robust neo-classical/post-rock long player. I was totally unaware until I read a pretty amazing interview with Tignor on Textura. What sounds like a pretty straightforward set up: two violins, a guitar, drums, and a Rhodes piano, with minimal electronic percussion; is in fact, put through way more manipulation than a casual listen reveals. Tignor is the author of two (possibly more) recording software devices that drastically change the pitch and hue of acoustic instruments being run as an input through this software. To wit:
"Orbits is a Java application I built for a laptop quintet of mine with the same name. It basically let's you use a Wacom tablet or your mouse to draw around the screen and create a stream of colored dots, each one representing a sample taken on the fly of whatever sound you feed into your computer. In the second half of “Sympathetic Response System” I fed the guitar, Rhodes, and Theo's ambient percussion into it. The direction and speed you draw changes whether these samples play forward, backward, and at what speed, and you can have hundreds of these little sample dots swirling about the screen at once if desired. The goal is to try and subtly bend our perception of the recognizable instrumental landscape by hearing the abstractions side by side with their sources." (from the Textura interview)
Is there an app for that? Cool right? Even with having an inside peek into how this album was created in no ways diminishes the purely emotional impact it had me, the first-tenth time listening to it. Simply put, there is no better band working in this medium right now. Western Vinyl released Balmorhrea's Constellations earlier this year, that while serving as a good reference point (and amazing in its own right), is of a totally different breed than the soaring violin lines, proggy time signatures and post-rock ascendancy caught in the laser-beam singular vision of Tignor. The way the looped violin parts weave around each other creates an unworldly beauty in the gorgeous segues between the more straight forward post-rock tinged songs and the tension filled rhythm-less tracks. While admittedly not a folk artist, "Because Together We Resonate" features an amazing amplified cello bridge that could stand in as a ruddy, colonial jig or an Appalachian Baroque piece. "The Night You Left New York" starts with twin violin lines both plucked and bowed, while the Rhodes plucks chords in a random almost aleatoric nature, this is sets the mood before the drums and guitar kick in to announce the decidedly back-to-basics rock approach Slow Six has introduced on their newest album. This isn't the crescendo-core of Explosions in the Sky or Mogwai, nor is this the apocolyptic melancholy of Godspeed! This is classical music for the new millennium, pattern recognition played back on itself until the abstract disappears into form.
Western Vinyl, can we thank you enough for churning nothing but highly consistent, downright amazing albums these past two years? 2010 has already started off so well. We want to issue a formal thank you.