Talibam! The Excusable Earthling

[Pendu Sound; 2007]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: “harmoniacal,” spontaneous composition
Others: Clouds Crossing, MoHa!, People, James Joyce

Why is so much of the so-called experimental noise scene so apathetic? If one were to judge the musicians working in the polar musical extremes, the base similarities might very well be comparable to the disparities. Apathy is a turd, yet somehow it's become a prevailing mindset for many musicians, sadly even for those who thrive on being fringe. Deliberate apathy versus genuine ignorance -- it's a fucking mess. Perhaps it's a case of misanthropy, but it's painful to watch fans rally around otherwise innocuous "noise" musicians whose only seeming function is to extend their braggadocio by being LOUD. Couple this with avant-garde music's otherwise arcane academics (think modern composition) and it's no wonder why so many people are left feeling alienated.

But then we have groups like Talibam! Finally a band that lives up to its exclamatory moniker, Talibam! are a refreshing reminder that experiments in sound aren't inherently exclusionary, even ones so tonally harsh and rhythmically spastic. To the untrained listener and/or lazy journalist, the band could be construed as "wild," "untalented," or worst of all, "primitive," but even cursory listens to The Excusable Earthling reveal not layers or narratives or semiotic devices, but a very in-the-moment sound that resists any foretelling construction or organizing principle. It's the difference between genuinely responding to a joke with laughter and a sitcom character who doesn't laugh because it's not in the script. Still, it's far from anarchy -- The Excusable Earthling is an invitation to engage, inclusive and intelligent, so organic and free-range it could be stocked in a natural food store.

Although The Excusable Earthling is Talibam!'s first full-length vinyl release*, this fact belies the experience of the members. Consisting of one of the best drummers in the American underground Kevin Shea, the ever-so-explosive Matt Mottel on synthesizer, and occasionally Ed Bear on bari sax, tapes, and electronics, the members of Talibam! have worked with everyone from Cooper-Moore and Chris Corsano to Peter Evans and Akron/Family. But their vast list of related bands and collaborations say nothing about the music. Here's a signature sound, not in the sense of being "new" or necessarily "different," but because Shea, Mottel, and Bear leave individual sonic imprints that are attuned specifically to each Talibam! moment, while any instance of seeming individuality is insinuated in a wider collective discourse. Sound stuffy? Don't worry, it's not reflected in the music.

Talibam! are perfect examples of music not made, but done -- communal in its approach, yet never regressing to trite psychedelia or transparent "primitivism." With an attentive ear and your guard let down, you can literally hear the band searching for different textures and varying dynamics, striving for moments of pure connection but also boldly looking for exits when they do. Hell, you may even get to hear a little tonality and a 4/4 beat. I'll be straight with you: this is "difficult" music, but only for as long as your cultured idioms allow it. The sounds are striking and the performance is penetrating -- this is physical music, and if you can't get down with that, then you're in a world of theory and illusions. To be sure, any Talibam! recording is best approached as a document of a vibrant process, not a cold, aestheticized artifact. Besides, given our current political, social, and cultural circumstances, our interests would perhaps be more wisely vested in the very same movement and dynamicism that afford Talibam!'s musicking.

* Talibam! also issued their first two "official" CD releases this year, including the highly, highly recommended studio album, Ordination Of The Globetrotting Conscripts.

1. Explosive Soul
2. One Way Foot


Some releases are so incredible we just can’t help but exclaim EUREKA! While many of our picks here defy categorization and explore the constructed boundaries between ‘music’ and ‘noise,’ others complement, continue, or rupture traditions that provide new forms and ways of listening. Not all of our favorites will be listed here, but we think each EUREKA! album is worthy of careful consideration. This section is a work-in-progress, so expect its definition to be in perpetual flux.

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