Review Summary: Varied, entertaining and genuinely exciting. If any free album was ever worth your time, this is it.3 of 3 thought this review was well written
Like it or not, free music is here to stay. And while many rant and rave about how piracy is destroying modern society as we know it, others actually decide to embrace technology and make their oeuvre available in a totally official, entirely costless way. Sites like Jamendo, Bandcamp and even MySpace have flourished on the back of such bands, and nowadays constitute essential sources for those looking for exciting new underground acts to support.
One such exciting new underground act is Tabula Rasa, who have decided to post their second release - a four-track EP entitled People
- up for grabs on Bandcamp. And if weeding through the piles of mediocrity infesting free music sites was ever worth your while, Peoples
was the album that made it worthwhile. Quite simply, this is one of those releases that is too good to be free, and if it is anything to go by, Tabula Rasa might have an exciting career ahead of them.
Stylewise, the band describe themselves as "post-hardcore", but that description is far from accurate. The term "post-" inevitably conjures images of the two-notes-per-minute, non-music snorefests perpetrated by Neurosis or Sunn 0))), and the sound contained here could not be farther from that staple. In fact, there is very little rock to be found here, let alone hardcore, with the only indulgences to heavier styles being the occasional angular riff or percussively-charged passage. The rest of the time, Tabula Rasa practice an unpinnable style, which mixes the zany experimentation of John Zorn and Frank Zappa with the ambient moods of Godspeed! You Black Emperor or Mogwai, and tops it all off with melancholy, monotone vocals reminiscent of Katatonia or the cleaner passages of My Dying Bride. For all intents and purposes, the sound suggested on People
is a mixture of free-jazz and ambient, with a dash of doomy melancholy thrown in for good measure.
However, an original sound is not enough, in and of itself, to save an album. The mixture described above could easily become a cacophonous hodgepodge, if not for some adept songwriting skills. Fortunately, the band show some chops in that department, and manage to keep it interesting throughout. The best example is probably opener Let's Go Get A Cup Of JOe Buffallino
(yes, each song is a play on words with someone's name), a veritable smorgasbord of free-jazz experimentation that would have fit right in on John Zorn's Cobra
. Follow-up Pat Corn Cob
stirs the mix further by adding in vocals, but simultaneously shows that Tabula Rasa's music works better without a singer, as the one-dimensional declamation quickly proves to be this band's weakest link.
Even still, the songs still retain an above-average level of interest, with moments of boredom being few and far between. The one moment where interest wanes is third track John Haas Has A Ghost Beard
, which for the first few minutes does little but repeat the ideas from the previous track; however, once the band launch into yet another free-jazz improvisation, everything becomes well again, in time for another above-average closer. Allow Me To Be Frank Juarez
mixes all the staples from the other three songs and provides a nice summation of what Tabula Rasa are all about, perfectly closing what is a remarkably strong free sample of a band's sound.
In the end, then, one cannot but recommend the download of People
. Despite the sometimes dull vocal work, the musicianship is predictably excellent - with particular emphasis on the slap-happy bass - the songs are well constructed, and the lyrics are suitably cryptic (read: complete gibberish), fitting in well in what is overall a slightly demential record. Furthermore, the band's sound is diversified enough to please fans of free-jazz, Frank Zappa, G!YBE and Katatonia, and interesting enough not to bore newcomers and mere curious parties. As for the band themselves, with one full-lenght album already out, they seem to be on the right path; one can but hope they have a bright future, because, judging by the sample contained on People
, they certainly deserve it.
Let's Go Get A Cup Of Joe Buffallino
Allow Me To Be Frank Juarez