Tabula Rasa
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Tabula Rasa

Knoxville, Tennessee, United States | SELF

Knoxville, Tennessee, United States | SELF
Band Rock Avant-garde


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos


The best kept secret in music


"People EP-Album Review"

Like it or not, free music is here to stay. And while many rant and rave about how piracy is destroying modern society as we know it, others actually decide to embrace technology and make their oeuvre available in a totally official, entirely costless way. Sites like Jamendo, Bandcamp and even MySpace have flourished on the back of such bands, and nowadays constitute essential sources for those looking for exciting new underground acts to support.

One such exciting new underground act is Tabula Rasa, who have decided to post their second release - a four-track EP entitled People - up for grabs on Bandcamp. And if weeding through the piles of mediocrity infesting free music sites was ever worth your while, Peoples was the album that made it worthwhile. Quite simply, this is one of those releases that is too good to be free, and if it is anything to go by, Tabula Rasa might have an exciting career ahead of them.

Stylewise, the band describe themselves as "post-hardcore", but that description is far from accurate. The term "post-" inevitably conjures images of the two-notes-per-minute, non-music snorefests perpetrated by Neurosis or Sunn 0))), and the sound contained here could not be farther from that staple. In fact, there is very little rock to be found here, let alone hardcore, with the only indulgences to heavier styles being the occasional angular riff or percussively-charged passage. The rest of the time, Tabula Rasa practice an unpinnable style, which mixes the zany experimentation of John Zorn and Frank Zappa with the ambient moods of Godspeed! You Black Emperor or Mogwai, and tops it all off with melancholy, monotone vocals reminiscent of Katatonia or the cleaner passages of My Dying Bride. For all intents and purposes, the sound suggested on People is a mixture of free-jazz and ambient, with a dash of doomy melancholy thrown in for good measure.

However, an original sound is not enough, in and of itself, to save an album. The mixture described above could easily become a cacophonous hodgepodge, if not for some adept songwriting skills. Fortunately, the band show some chops in that department, and manage to keep it interesting throughout. The best example is probably opener Let's Go Get A Cup Of JOe Buffallino (yes, each song is a play on words with someone's name), a veritable smorgasbord of free-jazz experimentation that would have fit right in on John Zorn's Cobra. Follow-up Pat Corn Cob stirs the mix further by adding in vocals, but simultaneously shows that Tabula Rasa's music works better without a singer, as the one-dimensional declamation quickly proves to be this band's weakest link.

Even still, the songs still retain an above-average level of interest, with moments of boredom being few and far between. The one moment where interest wanes is third track John Haas Has A Ghost Beard, which for the first few minutes does little but repeat the ideas from the previous track; however, once the band launch into yet another free-jazz improvisation, everything becomes well again, in time for another above-average closer. Allow Me To Be Frank Juarez mixes all the staples from the other three songs and provides a nice summation of what Tabula Rasa are all about, perfectly closing what is a remarkably strong free sample of a band's sound.

In the end, then, one cannot but recommend the download of People. Despite the sometimes dull vocal work, the musicianship is predictably excellent - with particular emphasis on the slap-happy bass - the songs are well constructed, and the lyrics are suitably cryptic (read: complete gibberish), fitting in well in what is overall a slightly demential record. Furthermore, the band's sound is diversified enough to please fans of free-jazz, Frank Zappa, G!YBE and Katatonia, and interesting enough not to bore newcomers and mere curious parties. As for the band themselves, with one full-lenght album already out, they seem to be on the right path; one can but hope they have a bright future, because, judging by the sample contained on People, they certainly deserve it.

Recommended Tracks
Let's Go Get A Cup Of Joe Buffallino
Allow Me To Be Frank Juarez - Sputnik Music

"Tabula Rasa finally"

KNOXVILLE — After years of experimenting with different names, musicians and sounds, Knoxville quartet Tabula Rasa had to go back to the drawing board. Upon the blank slate from which the band took its name, it drew up its current style, an instrumental-minded, improvisation-heavy, unpredictable take on prog rock that incorporates a number of the genres it experimented with along the way.

Having finally reached a sense of stability, the band looks to make up for lost time, putting out a two-disc EP to be followed almost immediately with a full-length concept album.

Tabula Rasa solidified its lineup after dropping three different singers in favor of dividing vocal duties between guitarist Logan Davis and drummer Paul Seguna. Next the band added dimension, recruiting Garret Keith on keyboards and guitar. From there, the group developed an all-new catalog that combines aspects of jazz/fusion, metal, post-rock, surf and jam, citing largely instrumental influences such as Mogwai, Porcupine Tree, King Crimson and The Mars Volta, although one can also detect hints of Primus and Man or Astro-man?. While content with its loosely defined direction, Tabula Rasa explains that its evolution is ongoing.

"Through all of the old lineups, all of us felt trapped by aspects of the music we were creating at different times," says bassist Eric Gedenk. "When the third singer we had been working with didn't work out, we all took some time off from the band, entered college, and worked on our respective instruments with more of an individual approach. Finding Garrett, getting rid of our old material and plotting a new audible direction led us to think of Mr. (John) Locke's philosophy, but in the sense that the soundscape we want to create begins as a blank slate, waiting for us to fill it up with what we see fit."

"From each previous lineup, every member better learned his niche in the music," Davis adds. "Besides the individual development of each musician, we have all grown as a collective. Earlier projects helped to lock in on a style by experimentation with a variety of sounds, but we are still figuring out what works. The music creation process has matured and gained focus over the years, but we continue to try new avenues."

One of the benefits of Tabula Rasa's dynamic style is that it lends itself to live performances. With lengthy tracks that are vocally sparse and stocked with extended jams, the band's sets spew improvisation. Hitting the local gig circuit full force since May, the group has yet to play a set the same way twice.

"Playing live, we try to take the songs that people can hear on our MySpace page and fuse them together, jam them out or modify them in some way that can keep even someone very familiar with our music guessing on what we are about to do," says Gedenk. "The best aspects of our music are that a walk-down leaves the listener on the edge, because it can go any number of directions. Our style has always thrived on unpredictability, and we try to use sudden, abrupt changes to fuse styles together, as well as pull a listener in closer."

Tabula Rasa is presently seeking the ideal studio to record its inaugural EP, which will span two discs. The EP will serve as an outlet for the band's grab bag of songs that lack the cohesion to form a fluid album. Soon after its initial release, the group will barely step out of its chosen recording arena before returning to compose a full-length concept album.

"Up to this point lyrics have focused primarily on the human condition and that of the world in which we live," says Davis. "Our words come from reflection, and reflection comes from experience. The songs, however, were relatively independent of each other thematically. We have a new project in the works concerning social commentary on the unspoken power hierarchy in which we exist." - (The Knoxville News Sentinel)


People EP


Feeling a bit camera shy


Going through three slight lineup changes, four names, and a one year hiatus (2007) Tabula Rasa is finally right where it wants to be: creating unique, eclectic music that tears down the rigid walls of genre.

Paul Seguna, Eric Gedenk, and Logan Davis formed a project in 2005 that draws on the experimentation and technicalities of King Crimson, The Mars Volta, Porcupine Tree and Tool, while incorporating Medeski Martin and Wood's breezy jazz rhythms and spacey post-rock arrangements likened to Explosions in the Sky or Mogwai.

In 2008, Garret Keith became the final, multi-instrumental piece to the puzzle. Since, the band has focused its energy on the movement in music returning to thematic lyrical content, conceptual albums, and long arrangements.

The goal of Tabula Rasa is to create a blank slate upon which any musical idea, regardless of genre, can be expressed and embraced by the larger community of music lovers. The Mantra: Musical Desegregation-- Varied parts are created and blended in hopes that the resulting sum transcends genre, becoming an entity in and of itself.

Tabula Rasa is anxiously awaiting the opportunity to meet like-minded bands and record more of their music.