Review Summary: The best instrumental post-stoner-math-rock musical grindhouse horror movie of the year.
Every single aspect of Tumbleweed Dealer's persona is geared towards the magical substance that is Marijuana. The reference in their name is obvious. They boldly state on their Facebook page under 'Band interests' two simple words: Getting high
. They have previously written songs with titles such as 'How To Light a Joint With A Blowtorch.' Best of all, the cover of their second LP, heavily channelling classic American grindhouse horror flicks, pronounces the tagline "Sometimes looking for weed in strange places goes horribly wrong."
And there could not be a more fitting way of describing the atmosphere of the band's music. Western Horror takes the psychedelic, hallucinatory characteristics of stoner rock, each song having two or three key riffs repeated endlessly to build into the next killer groove, and meshes it with the brooding, eerie aesthetic of a ghost or slasher film. The result is as if the listener is taking a trip through a deserted Wild West landscape (there's even a song called 'Slow Walk Through A Ghost Town') while high off some bad
weed, and it's a hell of a ride.
Rather than opting for classic stoner-rock guitar tones with heavy reverb and wah-wah plus masses of distortion, Tumbleweed Dealer's sound is surprisingly clean and even reminiscent of math-rock, with most of their riffs being more like high-pitched noodles. Every song follows a pretty much identical structure, starting with a 'base riff' that progresses with a small variation around every four bars, which I imagine main-man Seb Painchaud (sole studio guitarist and
bassist) develops by jamming with loop-pedals. Mixing in post-rock vibrato guitar lines and wondrously groovy and relaxed basslines, each track crescendos to a satisfying, but never explosive or breathtaking climax.
It might seem like the potentially repetitive nature of the song structures might also become a problem, but considering that the music always changes slightly around every 10 seconds, and each new development in a riff always feels fresh and fitting, the album never becomes tiresome or drawn out. It is the inability to reach any major emotional height that is the album's only real downfall - you may find your consciousness drifting mid-way through a song because their changes are so subtle and unobtrusive, though this is not necessarily a bad thing since not all music is meant to assault your senses all of the time. It just means that Western Horror is like the soundtrack to its imaginary horror flick, rather than the story and drive of the film itself.
Tumbleweed Dealer's sound remains unchanged from their near-equal debut, meaning a possibility that they could expend the interest their limited range of sounds and structures can offer in their next release. To reach their potential and eventually create a piece of music that could be considered a masterpiece, the band need to work on tightening their songwriting to make those crescendos into some true standout moments. Plus, exploring some new musical territory would make their ideas seem more fresh, and distinguish them from every other song they've written; some prowess from the drums would be nice, since their rhythms remain fairly basic throughout the record, helping lead to the risk of the band's music becoming monotonous in the future.
However, until then we have a collection of consistently strong, relaxed, eerily atmospheric and subtly pleasurable stoner jams for all your joint-smoking enjoyment. These range from the fast-paced (for Tumbleweed Dealer) opener 'Bluntlust' to a trudging, gritty odyssey 'Riding Upon A Skeletal Steed', '...And The Horse You O.D.'d On' and 'A Scythe In One Hand, A Shotgun In The Other' being two slower, expansive 8-minute pieces, efficiently forging a feeling of being lost in that barren Western wilderness of the artwork. The closest the album comes to greatness is best track 'Southern Reaper''s extremely riff-layered, groovy second half, those intense vibrato guitars coming full circle with the beginning riffs to conjure up an image of a badass spectre of Death advancing ever closer to your starving, hallucinating body lost in the parched desert until it suddenly disappears, leaving you alone with the vultures. After the low-key, bemoaning 'Ending Credits' of 'Dead Dad Blues' it is this closing of the album that brings hope of Tumbleweed Dealer finding that creative firepower to break the rule of sequels going downhill and hatch a final part to their trilogy of musical slasher movies. All we can hope for is that they reach the ultimate high.