Thursday, 25 August 2011

...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead
Tao of the Dead
Superball Music
Out Now
Rating: 5/5

My discovery of this album if anything proves that at least I'm writing for the right people. After reading a glowing live review in Classic Rock Presents: Prog, and trusting that any label willing to sign Oceansize would probably put out good craic, I picked up their most recent long-player, Tao of the Dead, out on Superball Music. It's a concept album, and admittedly I haven't got into that side of it especially yet, but the music has proven infectious enough that it's become the soundtrack to my Californian roadtripping these last two weeks.

Opening with the 'Introduction', you're confronted for the first time by a scalic, harmonized math guitar riff that will return throughout Tao, as it ebbs and flows with the dynamic of a record written almost as a single piece of music. When Steven Wilson announced The Incident, I have to admit that, rather than what he eventually delivered, I was expecting something much more like Tao; gleefully self-referential, sprawling and unrelenting.

Possibly my favourite thing about this album is that, as band members switch instruments, you can almost feel the changes in personnel; where 'Pure Radio Cosplay' and 'Summer of all Dead Souls' have drums that'd be at home on any Shinobu or West Coast punk record, 'The Fairlight Pendant' has a motorik drive to it, and these are just the tip of the iceberg where subtle shifts in playing style are concerned. The punk reference is apt too, for while this record is often going to be heavier than some casual listeners would prefer, there's also a breeziness to it; most of the album is in a major key, and for all the Fugazi-Sonic Youth dissonant turns it's certainly not so hard going that a mainstream rock listener couldn't dig the bulk of it.

With the emotive pull of 'Ebb Away'- directly following the fantastic reprise of 'Pure Radio Cosplay'- the record takes its final turn, as the band embark on 'Tao of the Dead Part Two: Strange News from Another Planet', a sixteen-and-a-half-minute blast of summery math-prog and post-rock meandering that neatly encapsulates everything I've grown to love about this band. Unlike all the other tracks that have preceded it, 'Tao Part Two' changes from a D tuning to an F tuning to mark the transition, though arguably the end of 'Part One' falls shortly before the intro of 'Ebb'; regardless, it's still an impressive feat of musical arrangement and artistic vision.

Ultimately however, the greatest thing about Tao is that it's the sound of a band literally doing whatever the fuck they feel like, and being good enough musicians to pull that off. It's fucking brilliant. 

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