Tied and Tickled Trio Aelita

[Morr Music; 2007]

Styles: indie, dub, well-mannered electronics
Others: Pram, Laika

Morr Music, as a label and stable of artists, has mined melancholia and pretty-sound explorations since its inception. With their most recent effort, Aelita, Tied and Tickled Trio carry the Morr tradition forward with delicate explorations of space and flirtations with uneasiness and isolationism. Though the record can at times exhibit an overly well-heeled use of atmospheric suggestion, the disc is still greatly beguiling in its instrumental soundtrack-leaning palette.

"Aelita," the title track, is presented in three parts, each birthed from the same root melody and augmented in subsequent fashion by further instrumentation or treatments, offering progression and variation in hue and shade. "Aelita, Pt. 1" is the opening of the music box, with focused concentrations looping, rising slightly, and then falling, like the captive ballerina. In the middle of the album, "Aelita, Pt. 2" lops about in echo and reverb, casting off minute ambient tones that break and reform, but never breach the confines of the base rotations. Finally, "Aelita, Pt. 3" adds a bolder shade to the palette, with each element playing a brasher role in the exchange of melodies.

Chimerical flourishes outline aspects of the record, evoking occasional shadow and figural images. As evidenced in the case of "A Rocket Debris Cloud Drifts," these phantoms invest the work with captivating -- and much-needed -- hallucinatory elements. The tone is downright sinister, possessing a funked-out swagger fueled by organ, drum rolls, and bass rumbles. "Chlebnikov" exhibits a similar inauspiciousness lurking within the details, though here it's coupled with an overwhelming sorrow in tribute to the Russian avant-garde poet of the same name. Ennui also informs the dream-like expressions found in "You Said Tomorrow Yesterday."

Dub plays an important role on the album, most effectively in "Tamaghis." Elements slip in and around each other as shades and shapes, shifting within the bass- and reverb-laden percussion. Meanwhile, "Other Voices Other Rooms" proudly displays its dub pedigree as well within the ever-evolving, haunting narration. It is an alluring and deftly crafted final statement before the curtain call, "Aelita, Pt. 3."

The one-sheet mentions the term "indietronic," and that was actually one of the things that sprang to my mind upon first listen -- not necessarily a good thing. I have to admit an overall ambivalence toward Aelita, as my opinion of it fluctuates too much from moment to moment. It's the first step in a stylistic change for Tied and Tickled Trio, so of course there is room for development. But for now, Aelita falls a little flat. Ultimately, a bit more grit and a little less politeness could work wonders on the group's next album.

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