Dwellers on the Threshold
This is the fourth release from the experimental german duo Tarwater, who graze in Germany’s hippest record label stable, Kitty-Yo. Dwellers on the Threshold is a collision of styles — fashionably chilled and geeky electronica, geekier alterno singer-songwriter stuff and post structural ambient collage. The disparate elements of Tarwater’s explorations — suitably avant garde bleeps and stabs alongside quirky instrumental pads — were intended, it seems, to form a pleasing wash of sound. But for an outfit renowned for the warmth and human presence of their obtuse output, the tracks on Dwellers feel very conflicted and uneasy within themselves. The mesh of sound is a jarring one; the aesthetics of the songs leave a sonic picture neither beautiful nor ugly, not really ANYTHING but an awkward collection of fragments. The cohesion and overarching vision needed to imbue this music with resounding impact (or even plain listenability) just isn’t there. The pieces itch at your skin, but there’s no creative satisfaction. The vocal drones, in particular, had me clenching my fists with inarticulable frustration at several points.
Despite this, there is much to be admired here — Tarwater’s compositions are all strong and boldy crafted. Tracks like “Be Late” and “Now” escape the “blips, odd vocals and random samples” formula and go for minimalist beauty. They succeed remarkably well, providing what they were probably intended to provide: moments of soothing clarity amongst the confusion.
The problem with this album is that is that it’s infuriatingly distant. There isn’t anywhere near enough humanism to sustain the listener. The unease just becomes a headache after a while. There are seeds of brilliance, but there are also moments of agonizing mediocrity.
Kitty-Yo Records: http://www.kitty-yo.com