Tambersauro
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Tambersauro

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"Tambersauro--Theories Of Delusional Origin"

Improvised (or even improvised-sounding) music makes my skin crawl. Okay, so that's a bit of an exaggeration -- I don't really find it creepy, per se, but it just kind of irks me, in the same way that, say, driving around town aimlessly or running in circles irks me. I'm not a particularly goal-oriented person, but I get really fixated on at least having a destination of some sort in mind; this is essentially why I badgered our cross-country coach in high school to let us run from the school down to the local mall, rather than re-running three miles' worth of laps for the millionth time and letting me slip into batshit fucking craziness. (Well, that and the fact that two of the other guys had a harebrained scheme to swipe some new shoes from the Foot Locker and make our speedy getaway on foot. Thankfully, the mall cops had eyes on us the second we set foot inside, so the plan went nowhere...)

Improv-based music, including most forms of jazz and noise, bugs me for the same reason. The aimlessness, the circularity, the whole idea of playing just to play -- none of it works for me. I enjoy playing in a jam session with friends as much as the next half-assed quasi-trained guitarist, sure, but watching/listening to somebody else do it is about as entertaining to me as watching Sunday AM politicos blather at one another. Fun to do, sure, but not so fun to listen to.

All that said, there are ways to take the improv form and make it work, at least for me -- that's where a band like Tambersauro comes in. The trio (Mike Blackshear, Lance Higdon, and Jeff Price, plus several special guests on various tracks) takes what sounds like some seriously jam-inspired grooves and nails them viciously to the half-rotted floor of some abandoned loft with spikes crafted out of pure Chicago-style post-rock. They infuse the meandering, go-nowhere instrumental passages with math-y busy-ness, spiky guitars, and thoughtful, Slint-esque spoken/shouted vocals, and the addition gives the music purpose, seemingly hinting at a reason behind it all, however unfathomable it might be to mere mortals like you and me.

As a reference point, Slint is probably the most apt, really; like that band, Tambersauro creates obscure symphonic movements in miniature, mini-symphonies that are constantly shifting and mutating into something else, often so fast I can't quite keep up and find myself wondering what the hell track I'm on now (answer: it doesn't really matter, trust me). They're murky and dark and meditative, almost hypnotic at times, with stylistic jump-cuts from post-rock angularity to atmospheric strangeness to spiraling jazz, sometimes within the span of a single song ("Take This and Leave," "Make Water Sand," etc.) The band grabs some Polar Goldie Cats from there, some Jonx from there, some Eno from there, some Tortoise from over there, some Fugazi from this shelf right here, and so on.

And yes, there are some truly Jonx-esque moments here (see "People Impart," in particular); heck, the band almost comes off like the bastard child of turbulent math-rockers The Jonx and fellow Houstonians Sharks and Sailors, with the bitter energy and nimble-fingered structures of the former and the meditative-yet-still-ass-kicking feel and seriousness of the latter. (If you don't know those bands well enough to use 'em as a reference point, well, believe me when I say you need to work on that.)

I particularly like the tone-poem-style vocals, flat and declamatory on tracks like the excellent, all-over-the-map "Make Water Sand" (which is probably the album's centerpiece); they give the obtuse lyrics some heavy-ass weight. Hell, that part in itself can fall flat -- it'd be real easy for Theories to become overindulgent and top-heavy, taking itself too seriously for its own good, and there's really nothing worse in music than some self-important shmuck who's convinced what they do is capital-a Art. Tambersauro dodge that trap, though, at least with me. As ultra-serious and quasi-poetic as the vocals and lyrics get, it never gets under my skin, possibly because these folks really, truly have the chops to back it up. That's the silver bullet for self-importance: if you act like you're making Art, you'd better actually fucking be making Art. And with Theories, Tambersauro is.

There's never a point on Theories of Delusional Origin where I find myself thinking, "right, right, you're a fucking poetic genius; let's move on, alright?" There's a passion lurking behind the flat monotone, erupting occasionally in vehement, howled fury as on album closer "Over and Down," and it makes it feel like the band's reserve has cracked somewhat, exposing the fire underneath. Even the improv-y stuff doesn't rub the wrong way, here, because it feels purposeful, like it at least has a place. The skittering drums and plucked guitars that kick in about halfway through "Mitties" work where they are, because they deconstruct the tightly-wound math-rock that comes earlier on, pulling it to pieces and setting it free to roam, damaged and chaotic.

Similarly, the band slowly disassembles the drums on "Blue and White Fragments," gently electronicizing them and stripping them down to bare metal, 'til they sound like beats straight off some mid-catalog Underworld album. In fact, if you look at Theories as a whole, assembly and disassembly might just be what it's all about: the music evolves to its farthest point, then it falls apart, and in falling apart, it turns into something else. I can't think of too many bands that can pull off that particular trick. - Space City Rock


"Tambersauro--Theories Of Delusional Origin"

Friends of mine are natives of Spring, Texas, and they clawed/kicked/screamed their collective way out of the khaki and concrete clutches of their hometown, a sprawl of franchise restaurants and Republican moral superiority northwest of Houston soon after high graduation, and rarely return. And while their high-tailing happened years (in some cases, even decades) ago, their memories are recalled with a kind of mean hiss that’s saved for the most painful and desperate of circumstances. Predominantly white, church-going, conservative suburban malaise at its finest finds its Stepford ways to alienate and ignore those that choose to question the answers of the entire mechanism. And given that these friends of mine are all of a lovably loud-mouthed, cage-rattling variety, I can understand why the mere mention of Spring elicits growling.

But some folks never escape…and apparently, they start fabulously caustic musical projects. Meet the contrarian roar of Tambersauro and their second full-length, Theories of Delusional Origin, a Spring-based explosion of post-rock frustration whose sound seems a violent, allergic reaction to the beige structure that is their vanilla bummer environs. Tone poems functioning as lyricism recall Can and even Doors material, fading in and out of the band’s compositional approach, which stubbornly, beautifully refuses structure. The abstract song titles - “make water sand,� “a pilgrimage to pergola,� “blue and white fragments,� and so on - only add to the overall mystery Tambersauro’s ethos, damn near forcing the listener to make sense of their dense puzzle.

Hell, there are sometimes a half dozen seemingly unrelated movements within the band’s songs, where drummer Lance Higdon channels a wild hybrid of Sabbath’s Bill Ward, Mitch Mitchell, and NYC avant garde stalwart Susie Ibarra, guitarist Mike Blackshear transforms Frisellish ambience into bursts of angular runs welcome on a Dischord offering, and bassist Jeff Price shifts from a menacing Bob Weston impersonation to counterpoint runs that echo progsters Genesis and Yes. And all of this happens in less than a minute. It’s a dizzying display of angst-fueled music that belches, wheezes, gags, and gurgles with a kind of dervish mayhem, and its suburban inception doesn’t surprise me in the slightest.

There are shortcomings here - the production, given that the recording took over a year, is thin, and at times it sounds as if the band is struggling with the final result of its spastic creativity and therefore a certain precision is lacking. But for truly unbridled post modern music that’s insistent on an absolutely unpredictable journey for the listener, Theories of Delusional Origin just might prove a worthy adventure to those spirited souls willing to take the jittery, noisy ride of a soundtrack through Spring, Texas. - Austin Sound


"Tambersauro--Box = Box"

I have to love an EP where the first my first reaction is to belt out with a hearty laugh. Not a derisive mocking laugh but one of sheer surprise and giggly amusement. Now look, I grew up with a lot of admittedly cheesy Prog Rock so maybe I have a bias towards left field patchwork songs with shameless timing changes and crazy dynamics. If you hate that stuff, you may as well move along. Personally, when done well, I love it.

The EP side is one song that starts with this quiet drone then bursts into this crazy Rush fucking King Crimson while Rick Wakeman looks on thing. Hell let's kick in some Minutemen vibe right afterwards, then lets get a little Slint vibe, and then… well you get the idea. I'm not suggesting that they are just doing a mash up of styles or are simply emulating these artists but that these guys have clearly absorbed a lot of music resulting in some crazy ideas and all that stored up potential energy just exploded into an EP of unrestrained kinetic energy. Is it cheap to say that this EP is fun? Well, it is fun. And fuck if I'm not pissed that there isn't more than just one side. Now if you'll excuse me I have to go clean up. That stuff on the walls is my brains that just exploded. - Nonalignment Pact


"Single Shots: Bill Callahan/ Tambersauro/ Colourful People/ Aliens"

Avant post-rockers Tambersauro, hailing from Houston, offer up "One Picture Frame and One Half of a Picture" as the B-Side of a recent split 10 inch album put out with Sacremento hardcore screamers The Blue Letter. Released by Spring, TX label Esotype Records on a gorgeous orange and white vinyl design courtesy of R. Shebaylo, both songs are cinematically orchestrated mini epics that are framed by a tri-part structure. "One Picture Frame and One Half a Picture" begins with an ominous reverb that arcs achingly before finally being broken by a jarring punk guitar riff that eventually settles to allow for classic spoken/shouted rant from Jeff Price: "I lost half my life today / My reasons for living / No wife, no child." While the lyrics sound as if they might bend towards the melodramatic, the break into the melodic, downtempo second part of the song restrains the emotion. Working through familiar post-rock textures with a touch of Rogers Water's to the vocals, act 2 offers a melancholic, contemplative control, all of which is undone by the cathartic screams of the final movement. - Austin Sound


Discography

"Box = Box" (Esotype records, 2006)
"Split 10" w/The Blue Letter" (Esotype records, 2007)
"Theories Of Delusional Origin" (Esotype records, 2008)

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Bio

Tambersauro began playing together one bleak fall in 2003, three players recovering from the breakups of their math-meticulous and porcelain-pretty ensembles respectively. Convened in such a spirit of opposition that they briefly toyed with the idea of never adopting a name, the men that would become known as Tambersauro started out as a crash collision between the polarities of their previous bands.

Their early compositions bore this out in its Zorn-like stitching of Shoegaze sheen to odd-metered fury and head-turning injections of Jazz and Latin music into the mix. Here were the seeds of what would become the band's signature attempt to ignore the tensions inherent in such reckless genre-blending, choosing instead to weave them tighter, squeezing out an unexpected tunefulness and harmony by doing what shouldn't work.

Over the course of one comp track, an EP, one side of a 10" "single," a full-length CD, and an upcoming 12" LP, Mike Blackshear, Lance Higdon and Jeff Price have kept mining these various veins for inspiration, pushing each other forward in their abilities to turn received musical frameworks inside out. Sublimating their identities beneath workmanlike jumpsuits, delivering blistering jams with a decidedly unserious stage demeanor, their live performances have moved into the realm of sonic gladiator battles.