Review Summary: "Let's all forget our troubles with a big bowl of strawberry ice cream."
Have you ever come across an album at a specific time in your life when, if you had discovered it at any other time, it would never have impacted you the same way? That album, for me, for the time being, is Stampede to Timberline’s Tribulation
. At a time when I’m unsure of everything in my life, down to the most trivial problems, Tribulation
has come into the picture, sat me in a chair and shut me up; teaching me to appreciate the stunning majesty of, and to soak in, the world around me. From the scent of the petrichor from the earth, to the fog in the sky and the snails that come at night. Stampede to Timberline is a one-man experimental folk project, blending field recordings and ambient, drone and even noise tendencies to create a unique and almost avant-garde folk experience.
I’m certain this album draws from a plethora of many different influences and inspirations to become what it is, but yet it’s so difficult to peg this for what it is. When it drones, it has that beautiful repetition of strings and the ringing reverb of hissing tonalities. When it’s ambient, it has the swirling and ethereal voices of the music intertwining and gently humming. When it’s folk, it features sanguine yet downtrodden acoustic melodies alongside the harmonic vocals, which at times seem reminiscent of a young Jeff Buckley, albeit without the inhuman range. And what really strikes me with this release, which really sinks deep into my mind is just how diverse this is, and how many different comparisons I can make. Whether it be the layered acoustic plucking in ‘I’m Gone’ reminding me of Boris’ Flood
, or the spoken word in the same song sending me back to Kayo Dot’s Choirs of the Eye
is a strange beast which leaves me in awe after each listen. No other album in recent years has sent me to so many different places in less than an hour’s runtime. The prick of nostalgia that sends me into spirals of longing for younger years, the sense of reliving moments of love, of people, of music, of life, of emptiness.
The album peaks at its centre, around three tracks in particular: ‘Hands and Anchors,’ ‘Light in My Lungs’ and ‘Life and Sleep.’ Starting off the centrepiece trio, ‘Hands and Anchors’ sees the first formal folk song of the record and is the first song to really show off the gorgeous vocal work of the album. Soft croons and light-hearted lungs spilling into the microphone to create a song which is nothing short of breathtaking with its soothing melodies and structure. ‘Light in My Lungs’ is sort of a segue, or a breakdown, if you will. The song demonstrates soft ambiance, droning note repetition and static that one simply gets lost in. As it all fades, in comes ‘Life and Sleep,’ which I like to see as ‘Hands and Anchors’ counterpart on the album. Featuring a much more melodically straightforward acoustic performance with basic strummed chords, but also features that album’s best vocal work, immediately recognised at the beginning of the song (pity/purity/we all feel it/it ebbs and flows through our lungs).
One minor nitpick I’ve to discuss in Tribulation
is the sampling in ‘Our Western Oceans.’ Whilst musically the song is one of the highlights of the album, with absolutely spine-tingling note progressions and ambient waves of noise mixed with field recordings of effective sounds, the sampling of an interview/conversation that runs throughout the song’s eight-and-a-half minute playtime brings an unneeded political message into the album. Talking of matters of abortion and pro-life Christians that I feel detracts from the simple and uplifting ideas of life and nostalgia that I’d been experiencing before now. All-in-all, it’s not a large problem and certainly doesn’t ruin the album in any way, shape or form, but simply just feels out of place. As the album closes with the sixteen minutes of pure bliss that is ‘David Branches,’ a song that exemplifies everything that makes this album so incredible, I feel myself a little worn thin, a little happier than before, a little exhausted-- a little smile on my face.
is the soundtrack to a rainy Summer, lying uneasy in the beauty of an imperfect world. The soundtrack to the children who run out to explore new worlds in a hazy morning, little legs stretching over rocks, under logs and through the trees, visiting the places in their minds that we, as we’ve gotten older, have stopped visiting.
It may just be the warmth in the air, or the rain running down my windows, but the body in this work is thicker than the humidity that surrounds me. This is no doubt an album that will not be leaving regular rotation for a long time and I couldn’t hope to find a better companion for my empty days of pitiless slumber.