No matter how many decades have passed since the heyday of the 1960s, our collective fascination with the jam band refuses to die. One only has to look at the ever-increasing number of street fashion brands reinterpreting the Grateful Dead bootleg lot tees of yesteryear to get a sense of the innate attraction that the jamband’s lifestyle still holds in our psyche (even if it means people use money). more money to see John Mayer than they could have ever imagined). In addition to the mesmerizing tie and the shared joy of taking psychedelics and dad-dancing in the field with your caravan for three hours, there is of course the music. The best jambands have always stirred the ingredients of the American songbook into a psychedelic porridge, emphasizing the magical, spontaneous inspiration that emerges from improvisation. Bands like The Dead were experimental in a way that still stands out in the pantheon of classical rock music, making them lasting icons in the DIY world – especially for young seekers like brothers Andy and Edwin White from Tonstartssbandht.
But while The Dead has long played in the realm of massive stadiums and extensive lineups, Tonstartssbandht channels this same energy on a much more intimate scale. As with other late-2000s lo-fi journeymen like Sun Araw and Eternal Tapestry, Andy and Edwin White reinterpret the concept of “jam music” for the college basement show, stirring a spoonful of bizarre noise pop into their guitar hero worship. Although they easily slipped into the 10s slacker rock boom with their whimsical track names and funny hairstyles (the brothers were even roommates with Mac DeMarco), Tonstartssbandht always pushed their sounds to more transcendental endings and took homework from kraut rock and noise just as conveniently. as they did from country music. Their focus on live performance has meant that for the most part, the best way to hear Tonstartssbandht was either in the room with them or on one of their excellent live records, which captured their extensive psychedelia in all its shaggy glory. These living documents as well as their study efforts in 2017 Wizard, are scary beasts, consisting of side-by-side tracks and songs that bleed into each other like a black hole using “Bad Moon Rising.” With Petunia, however, Tonstartssbandht has finally figured out how to turn their vision into a tight, cohesive studio album without losing the ambling spirit that has nurtured their music from the start.
Where previous Tonstartssbandht albums had a dilapidated dizziness right out of the Meat Puppets playbook, there is a sense of melancholy to Petunia. Recorded in their hometown of Orlando in the midst of the pandemic (as opposed to being put together on tour from several cities, as their records are usually collected), the harmonies of the White Brothers Byrds-Ian churchboys sound more withered than ever before, as road rock hymns sung from the end of the numbers. From the moment “Pass Away” slowly rumbles to life, Andy and Edwin’s twin falsetto carries an attacking tone that duets about how “some people are born who can taste their days / Me, I can not wait to pass away. ” During the song’s nearly eight minutes, Andy pulls new riffs out of his 12-strings, as if he were making them on the spot, each section flowing with a gentle, bulging calm. All of Petunia‘s songs carry this quiet sense of discovery, as on the casual swamp boogie “Hey Bad” that culminates in a fluttering riff that bears more than a passing resemblance to Jerry, or the spiraling arpeggios of “Falloff” that effortlessly builds to a highway-worrying blues rock sprint before a string-bent melody brings the entire song to a dazed, sighing finale.
Petunia‘s finest moment is the longing, tremolo-driven elegy “What Has Happened”, a song that sounds unlike anything Tonstartssbandht has previously put on tape. Over Edwin’s brushed, subtly shifting drum patterns, Andy sings softly about the time slipping away, and his voice barely rises above a low-hanging mumble. The song’s cycle melody may immediately seem simple, but its sense of sadness slowly creeps in like a fog, evoking the long autumn walks, where one’s thoughts inevitably drift towards the existential. “Honestly, what happened to me?” He asks in a quivering falsetto before the brothers lay a fountain of beautiful harmonies and weary chord changes, transforming the few elements of the song into a mournful chamber of self-reflection.
On previous albums, the White Brothers might have cut those moments of clarity into a lo-fi smear, stretched them out and made it impossible to say where they begin or end – as if we heard idea of how the perfect two-man psychrock band could sound. Now Tonstartssbandht removes all echo and distortion and instead focuses on rich and complex songwriting as the basis of their endless jamming. They have not lost their ability to channel classic rock’s predilection for epic mysticism, but they have learned how to make it work on a more earthly level and reveal the human emotions lurking behind their happy noodles. It stands as a testament that the best jam sessions can take you on a journey, even from your living room.
Buy: Rough trade
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