I wrote this review a little while back for Spacelab.tv. It all went up just this week, but it was written back in March. When I saw it online, I’d honestly forgot what I had to say about the album, but it’s not a half bad review. I like it when I surprise myself. (Even though I neglected to research and find out the whole Liars connection, but c’est la vie…)
These Are Powers – Taro Tarot
The ultimate truth with noise music is that you have to approach it and assess: how much of the population would assume that better music could be made by beating a choir of cats with a baseball bat. There’s a chart that could be drawn out, putting Merzbow’s harsh noise calisthenics at the most severe end, The Liars’s tribal wash in the other, moderately palatable end of the spectrum. These Are Powers EP Taro Tarot sits pretty much square in the middle. Much of their noise is based out of a traditional bass-drums-guitar-vocals, but using them to make a much looser, hazy kind of noise rock.
The album opener “All Night Services,” is a curious wash of sludgy atmospherics, sparse percussion with a faintly Waits-ian vibe. The vocals arrive out of left field: an eager, angry croon that soars above the rising guitar atmospherics, giving a touch of Drift-era Scott Walker. The track plods along before spiraling up like a tornado, the two guitars rising like a cresting wave over the persistent thin. loping drums. It’s a song lost somewhere in the clouds, waiting till the inevitable downward fall begins.
“Chipping Ice” punches through the settling dust of “All Night Services” with an almost punk-rock drum barrage. The track sits for a solid minute in a rhythmic mess of drum fills elbowing for room with the sludge bass and power drill guitars. After a brief breakdown of some actual coughing, the track transforms with a push of structural momentum. Like The Liars minus the dance punk leanings, the propulsive noise takes on a loose sense of structure; exploring less a progression of verse and chorus, but of meditations on repetition. Dolloping on layer after layer of sludgy guitar whines and noisy squeaks, “Chipping Ice” wanders blindly for three and a half minutes.
Throughout Taro Tarot, the drums and marching bass underpin the constantly shifting mess. Like with the later track “Cockles”, the dense cloud of gray noise and reverbed voice threatens to float away, saved just by the anchor of meditative drum repetition. Taro Tarot’s biggest weak spot in the sameness of most of the songs. Much of the rest of the EP, save the throwaway 40 second “Garage Bird,” is a linear build, lurching forward like a train from a dead stop, slowly building speed to an inevitable squalling peak. The saving grace is that the longest track clocks in at 4:18, illustrating These Are Powers’ with a mercifully short attention span. Noise music is often terribly fun to make and less so for the listener to consume, so by not overindulging on the song lengths, TAP offer a degree less of wear on the listener. While not a total failure, moments like “Chipping Ice”‘s proto-punk drum attack and “All Night Services” twisted croon offer moments of intrigue, but overall Taro Tarot is lacking a cohesive element that reaches through the speakers and grabs a firm hold of listener’s attention.