Review Summary: The Dead Texan make thought-provoking though difficult to replay Ambient electronica, with highs and lows galore (in quality and intensity). Some tracks feature vocals, but the instrumentals speak volumes more.
When I was a kid my mom would read me books without words, the kind that just had pictures, and you were supposed to make up your own story. Granted, she wasn’t the best story teller, but it just gives you a special feeling when you’re making your own story, out of your own feelings. And granted, The Dead Texan don’t play songs about bears or pigs or magical fairies, but it’s sort of the same deal. Sort of. I guess that’s the sort of aesthetic that first attracted me to ambient music. People aren’t making this stuff up for you, you write your own story to go along with the music/pictures out of your own feelings. And granted, The Dead Texan’s music isn’t completely instrumental, but it’s sort of the same deal. Sort of.
The Dead Texan is an Audio/Visual duo made up of Stars of the Lid songsmith Adam Wiltzie and Visual Artist Christina Vantzos. Originally The Texan’s music was supposed to be a collection of tunes for his primary band, but Wiltzie deemed them “too aggressive” for SotL. It’s sort of funny to a relative ambient virgin like me to hear someone call a band that plays music like this “too aggressive”. After all, the music is for the most part just atmosphere, swirling around droning synthesizers. There are never drumbeats and hardly any vocals, how is that aggressive? I could argue the matter all day, but the near Post-Rock ascension of A Chronicle of Early Failures pt. 2 makes an all too interesting argument for the other team. Chronicle 2 has one of the most thought-provoking melodies ever played. The keyboards sound like god’s angels, sweeping people off their feet and taking them to heaven. Each bar begins with a deep gurgling sound and rises into a godly lead tone, with a lush, but fairly minimalistic background supporting each epic swoop. Though originally it seems uplifting the repeated effect borders on depressing, and the tune ends up a heavy hearted trudge back to silence, an awakening from paradise into the arms of reality. And granted, The Dead Texan aren’t any kind of suicidal, but it’s sort of the same deal. Sort of.
Another moment of pure excellence comes in the relatively short synth-washed track Girth Rides a (Horse) +. Its probably the most dense and together track on the album, utilizing a number of layers of synthesizers, wrapped around a lonely tear drop piano line playing in the background. It’s essentially one giant build-up, with synths growing in volume after every attack, like a mythological Greek monster or your father’s gray hairs, all culminating in a dreamy conclusion. The song borders, like many others from the record, on the 90’s indie music genre Shoegaze, but replacing muffled vocals and layered guitars with a synthetic womb of piano tones. The album’s only real musical downsides come in the overlong Le Ballade d’Alain George, a straightforward, slightly boring piano-fest, and the fact that the album’s effect, while calming, does not exactly scream replay value. Over all the album is good, but could be much better. The final tracks from the album are most certainly its best though, with the country-meets-Eno strings of Beatrice Part 2 and the first [prominent] use of guitar in an appropriately named closing track called the Struggle giving the album a sparse, yet interesting cushion to come back down onto. The latter even adds a vocal section to close out on. And granted The Dead Texan’s not exactly a classic, but it’s sort of the same deal. Sort of.