Enablers - Tundra
Exile on Mainstream Records
Experimental Rock
10 songs (31:54)
Release year: 2009
Enablers, Exile on Mainstream Records
Reviewed by Goat

This short, quirky album from San Francisco-based Enablers is hard to fit in any category. Soft strumming and spoken words act to create something more like a band telling you a story rather than a band creating music, but with members from acts like Swans, Toiling Midgets and Broken Horse, to name a few, you’re going to get something suitably odd, and Tundra (former albums being released on Neurot Recordings) is that and more. It switches between Indie and Prog easily, The Destruction Most Of All’s instrumental section a quavering monument capable of collapse at any moment, whilst the vocals and the music of Carriage seem comfortably out of time, separate.

Pete Simonelli’s vocals are closest to Nick Cave’s defined drawl, sounding like some Avant-Garde author reading his book out to musical backing at times and at others reminiscent of chaotic experimental Blues outfit Oxbow. The longest track on the album, the four-and-a-bit-minute Februaries, is impressively laid-back but the gentle rise and fall of the music is almost Post-Rockish. Elsewhere, the title track is more strident, with an almost Country vibe, the vocals dramatic and theatrical. The Achievement takes a Punkish violence before devolving into melodious melancholy and the seven-second untitled track is a single guitar squall.

It’s hard to know how to react to Tundra. The album keeps you on edge throughout, as you’re never able to guess what the band will do next, a gently chiding Avant-Gardeness that reminded me of Captain Beefheart. Like that band’s classic Trout Mask Replica, it takes quite a few listens to even come close to figuring Tundra out, although it’s a much less frustrating process, and is enjoyable from the first listen. The lulling, relaxed sections are as excellent (the cover of Nina Simone’s Four Women is a nice closer) as the less frequent noisy freak-outs.

Make no mistake, it’s a very interesting listen, yet it doesn’t leave you as satisfied as the best Rock albums can, the Dylans and Youngs, the classic storytellers. Maybe it’s just me, but coming from a background where Classic Rock, that unarguable pantheon of outstandingly good music, ruled the roost, I look at albums like this differently than those with more experimental backgrounds. I enjoy it just as much, but for different reasons. Others may have different expectations and reactions to the music on Tundra, but speaking personally, it approaches genius and gives it a gentle brush of the fingers, without the extended caress that would have made it a truly excellent album. As mentioned, others may see it like that; for me, this is a very good release that I keep returning to without quite knowing why. If you want to get your hands on it, pre-ordering is the safest way, as the album will be released on the 26th January in limited quantities (1200 for Europe alone) in hand-screened and hand-numbered wooden boxes with velvet trays.

Killing Songs :
The Destruction Most Of All, Carriage, New Moon, Februaries, Tundra, Bells, Four Women
Goat quoted 79 / 100
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