Tarantula A.D. Book of Sand

[Kemado; 2005]

Styles: restless, foul-breathed, woodchuck-stomping yeti music
Others: Dungen, Debussy, Devendra

These three men use their cover art to present themselves as fleshy gods. A Roman warrior effortlessly holds a swooning woman in one arm, while his other arm carries a bronze shield. Against a majestic and blue-tinted mountain backdrop, a blindfolded alchemist lifts a compass to the wind. Above a gold-painted rune, a knight bends his reverent head down to the hilt of his sword. The scene bleeds with grandeur, valiance, and chivalry. It is a wide-angle panorama of epic lore, vaguely mystical and vaguely biblical. This cover bellows its canyon-deep wail across centuries, beating its broad chest with the significance of the ages and the weight of victory and death. It's silly as fuck, but it's huge.

Book of Sand is much the same way. The album's genius lays sprawled across the 22-minute, three-part Century Trilogy. Chamber strings circle and crouch, then leap up into gnarly crescendos of Wagnerian sturm und drung. In moments where many instrumental post-rockers would choose to drape textures of gauze and mist, the men of Tarantula A.D. beat divots out of stone, and chisel the mountainside. There's nothing subtle or genteel about it, and this virile bluntness is a refreshingly honest whiff of musk.

By the way, that guitar riff that ties together the Century Trilogy? It's a lumbering behemoth. A lead-footed yeti trampling woodchucks without hesitation or remorse. It's the kind of riff that Robert Fripp would have over for supper. Never mind that these guys are classically-trained musicians who double and triple on cello, piano, xylophone, and any number of other orchestral tools. It may be prog. That's not the point. The point is that they want to shoot in 70mm. They want to carve a bigger Rushmore, and chronicle the titans. Their tangents into flamenco and ambient music subtract from any sense of cohesion, but these wanderings are the products of a playful eclecticism, never showy displays of empty virtuosity.

Like their labelmates in Dungen, they don't apologize for their broad strokes. This music does not feel self-conscious at all. When CocoRosie's Sierra Cassidy shows up to sigh the sylvan lullaby on "Sealake," or when the loping whistle hushes the crickets of "Riverpond," there are a few twinkling moments of transcendent beauty, sure. But it's just the calm before the swordfight.

When the words "classically-influenced instrumental rock" show up, I usually expect glaciers and sloooow builds. Tarantula A.D. surprised me by resisting the delicate, and avoiding those repetitions and cerebral swells. This is restless, foul-breathed, woodchuck-stomping yeti music, and I can get with that.

1. The Century Trilogy, Pt. 1: Conquest
2. Who Took Berlin, Pt. 1
3. Who Took Berlin, Pt. 2
4. Sealake
5. The Century Trilogy, Pt. 2: Empire
6. Prelude to the Fall
7. The Lost Waltz
8. Riverpond
9. Palo Borracho
10. The Century Trilogy, Pt. 3: The Fall