For some listeners, the nature of the Tasting The Sea LP will feel like a return to a different and remarkable time – in spite of the fact that it doesn’t much sound like anything that anyone has heard before. No, it’s the spirit of the record that feels familiar; from the moment a turntable’s stylus touches down on the A-side of the album and “Stuck Between the Trivial and the Impossible” begins to ruffle, skitter and lurch to life, the formless weirdness of the earliest days Negativland, the most avant garde period in the songbooks of bands like Nine Inch Nails and Pink Floyd and some of the most exciting but bizarre underground rock and punk acts of the 1980s (like Kyuss and Monster Magnet) all leap to mind at once and gel together, while also devouring themselves. It’s weird – in a word – but because it lacks an easy-to-recognize frame of reference, it’s hard to not want to dig into it, rip it apart and demystify it – all in the name of understanding this music.
“But is all of that exciting stuff evident from note one,” you ask? Well, not exactly. Like so many albums of its ilk, Tasting The Sea needs a little patience from listeners to get some movement about it. As “Stuck Between the Trivial and the Impossible” opens, an orchestral sample gives the impression of majesty to the cut before neatly treated and modulated synths and a drum pattern so awesome that it may leave some listeners with concussions pick up the progression, push anticipation levels up and frame the song for singer William Seekamp to pose before and give structure to with the words, “Stuck between the trivial and the impossible rush” while also invoking Geddy Lee, vintage kraut rock and Desert Rock hijynx all at once with a bit of Beck cuteness (think about “Mutherfuker,” if you’re lost) chipped in for good measure. After a five-minute flex, listeners will be left totally invigorated; the song’s scruffy but incredibly focussed and ominous energy will leave them ready for more.
While the energy of “Stuck Between the Trivial and the Impossible” is definitely not echoed or increased by I would Like to be a Cow, Now,” the second cut on the side absolutely leaves no hopes for more unanswered. There, Vertacyn Arc Materializer hits upon a simmering, seething and loose vibe similar to the verses of Foo Fighters’ “For All The Cows,” albeit with a far less streamlined, ‘more-indie-than-rock’ impression. Here, Seekamp aims for a more Gene Ween-ish vocal approach as his doubled vocals whines but still manages to retain some cute and well-kept edges for almost the entire song – it’s only in the last minute or so that Seekamp goes off the rails and begins howling the title lyric over and over. That decision (to lay up so early in Tasting The Sea‘s runtime) really throws a hard left turn at listeners, in the context of modern rock; while convention has normally dictated that bands should start hard and get harder immediately thereafter just to prove they can, “I Would Like to be a Cow, Now” gives listeners the chance to catch their breath and gives the band a chance to shake off all the pre-conceived notions that listeners might have had about them; with “…Cow, Now,” Vertacyn Arc Materializer effortlessly proves that they have no interest in blending in with any crowd or scene, and will have listeners of a particular mind aching to learn where they’re headed next.
The sort of next-gen, Ween-ish weirdness expressed in “I’d Like To Be A Cow, Now” gets a little more frenetic as Vertacyn Arc Materializer dumps a bot of the frenzy that early Flaming Lips used to feature into “The Majesty of Rock,” which closes the side in a very-literally epic (no joke – the song is almost nine minutes long) and brilliant way. While a little excessive, there’s no denying that the sound of “…Rock” is phenomenal; the song flies in every possible direction and explodes outward first before imploding and just shutting down. There is no way to effectively characterize it, but it is exciting to hear and IS THE THING which will have listeners on board to flip the record over as soon as it funs out. The lunacy of “The Majesty of Rock” is what will hook listeners and drag them over to the B-side.
…And, on the B-side, listeners will find a different and more refined experience from its predecessor. “El Dorado” opens the B-side with a meticulously clean-sounding, Pink Floyd-esque performance which doesn’t really go anywhere but gives listeners a very gorgeous experience. The dialogue which appears in place of conventional vocals on top of the song is actually the perfectly the perfectly irrelevant part of the track and detracts from the horn flourishes underneath and the melancholy chord progression; some listeners may actually find it frustrating but those who are able to ignore the “found sound” demeanor of the vocal, the performance is actually pretty remarkable and sets the Desert rock vibe of “Natgeo” perfectly. There, the incoherent and howling vocal coupled with the bombastic guitars emerge to present a “designer impostor” permutation of epic rock grandeur which sets a great precedent for what this band is capable of when they’re at their best.
After the “El Dorado” precedent has been set, “Low Interest” and “The Good Book’s Got Me Thinking” roll along on very similar power and end the album on the highest possible note. There’s just no denying the late-playing of the album and, after they’ve run front-to-back with it, listeners will easily be able to recognize and agree that, while it may have begun on uncertain ground, the twilight-playing of Tasting The Sea is just incredible and is the thing which will have listeners coming back and waiting expectantly for more music. Between its musical and artistic design (the album’s cover beautifully cross-wires pop art with post modernism), album is a strange and wholly unique creature – but one which proves itself to be an unlikely but remarkable document which demands appreciation from those who chance to understand it.
Tasting The Sea is out now. Buy it here, directly from 10GeV Records. http://www.10gevrecords.com/media-works/tasting-the-sea/