Tarwater The Needle Was Traveling

[Morr; 2005]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: indie electronic, post rock, krautrock, electro
Others: Lali Puna, To Rococo Rot, Christian Kleine, Air

The Needle Was Traveling, Tarwater's first album on Morr Records after departing from Kitty-Yo, shows the German group drifting even further from their origins in the European experimental electronic music scene and German "post rock," and aligning themselves with a more straightforward pop sensibility. Despite having ties to To Rococo Rot (Tarwater's Ronald Lippok was a member of the trio) and featuring contributions from Schneider TM and Rechenzentrum, The Needle Was Traveling surprises the listener immensely, as it is essentially a pop album disguised in the trappings of experimental electronic music.

Though Tarwater have historically been primarily an instrumental group, this time around, easily two-thirds of the songs on The Needle Was Traveling feature vocals. Granted, the lyrics are not necessarily what one might call profound, and they often veer towards the repetitive, but they do succeed in adding some variety and texture to the music. Even without the vocals, the album is an incredibly diverse affair; drawing from any number of musical sources and styles from Kraut and Electro to '60s pop. But the vocals augment the music by adding warmth and depth, and perhaps even assist in pushing the album, in part, into the realm of dance music.

Furthermore, the record is inordinately catchy right from the start. Driving beats, melodic hooks, and beautiful, intricate arrangements serve to draw the listener in immediately. It's an interesting fusion of glitch, post rock, indie rock, and guitar-oriented pop with a driving, compelling Krautrock backbone. A great deal of effort was clearly put into the making of this album. The production is lush and crystalline, and the melodies are dense and aplenty.

It's also perhaps important to note that the subtle influence of Air is also omnipresent on The Needle Was Traveling. Some of the proggy keyboards and horns sound not dissimilar to those frequently employed by the French band. In fact, on several of the tracks, the album has the effect of sounding basically like a German experimental electronic band which succumbed, in part, to the influence of Air. Like Air, Alpha, or perhaps Mellow, the album is rife with the emotionally charged: a Bacharachian synthesis of contemporary electronica and late '60s/early '70s easy listening. Melodic almost to a fault, this is perhaps the German equivalent to Air's Gallic schtick. The record is, however, punctuated with other instrumentals, such as the sublime "Yeah," which are dark and strange enough to counterbalance the mawkish sentimentality of some of the other pieces. Beneath every track here, however, is a somewhat dark, Teutonic undercurrent (at times, an almost martial bombast) which anchors the tracks to their harsher, more experimental roots. Overall, an impressive, eminently enjoyable album.

1. Across the Dial
2. Stone
3. Seven of Nine
4. Entry
5. Babylonian Tower
6. TV Blood
7. The People
8. All That
9. Jackie
10. Yeah
11. In a Single Place
12. 90 Days
13. Unseen in the Disco
14. Home Tonight