Julian Cope’s Album of the Month

Tetragrammaton - Elegy for Native Tongues

Elegy for Native Tongues

AOTM #113, October 2009ce
Released 2009 on Subvalent
  1. Oresteia in One Part (14.20)
  2. Solve et Coagula (11.36)
  3. Los Heraldos Negros (14.55)

Note: This is a review of one disc of a 2CD set, because I lost the other for about three weeks. In the meantime, I had grown so used to the single disc that I figured if I dug it so much, maybe I should say what-the-hell and review what I knew.

“Rudimentary Tripping Through Found Obstackes”

Commencing this concert in a strident flurry of snarling free percussion, abrasive, Caledonian bagpipe drone and a single angular saxophone (somewhat like the equine braying of Battiato’s formidable CLIC experiment), this magnificent Japanese trio ease our Occidental ears extremely gently into the near quarter-hour of ‘Oresteia in One Part’ by temporarily hoodwinking us that they are the distant offspring of Buddhist gagaku players and free-thinking 70s intellectuals raised on Takehisa Kosugi’s legendary ensembles Taj Mahal Travellers and East Bionic Symphonia, and their later aggregation Marginal Consort. But, as evidenced by what happens next, brothers’n’sisters, Tetragrammaton are most serpently not drawing from the same Sacred Well as the aforemenched, no, indeed they are not. Instead, right before our very eyes and quite before ye knows it, Messrs TOMO (saxophone, hurdy gurdy, FX), guitarist/percussionist Cal Lyall and drummer Nobunaga Ken transform their spectral (and super-economy) volkshovercraft into a slab-sided diseasel-fuelled forward-propelled combine harvester of Canadian wheatfield proportions. No way. Way. It’s as though they’re systematically summoning the ghosts of Tony Conrad, Henry Flynt and the entire ensemble from Le Stelle di Mario Schifano, these three Uber-musicians achieving in a live environment what those aforementioned mega-line-ups rarely achieved, ie: a seamlessly slick & coherent Cuntedness that bubbles at the base of your melted plastic brain, simmers your Ur-spirit and accelerates it into the Cosmos with extraordinary precision. The following track – entitled ‘Solve et Coagula’ – next disassembles the ambulant jams of BoAnders Persson’s Parson Sound and the early early Klaus Schultze-propelled power trio versh of Ash Ra Tempel, as TOMO and Lyall set up a massive ambient counterpane of sound as though a Mt. Rushmore-sized John’n’Yoko were holding a Bed-In that kept getting interrupted by a local redneck giant – played by drummer Nobunaga – who hefts & hurls a series of hyperactive, nay, manically amphetamine Mani Neumaier free rock concussion gestures’n’thunderbolts across the near horizon. For the members of Tetragrammaton, the distance from wasted ambulant slug trails to Mach 2 Operation Desert Storm is never very far; these gentlemen are the Civil Engineers of Experimental, the MacAlpine of the Avant Garde, springing into action like a trio of coiled cobras scrambling for that last slice of mongoose paté. Bang, they’ze on eet! The final track – entitled ‘Los Heraldos Negros’ – is a vast quarter-hour of Sonic Quakering, as though some fundamentalist Christians had formed a religion with rites based around the first Residual Echoes LP, or a coupla Titan-sized baritones were shaking the padlocked gates of the Universe, demanding to be let in, or someone had slipped a sample of Pere Ubu’s ‘Sentimental Journey’ on to the car-deck tannoy system of a Cross Channel ferry at disembarkation time, and the drivers were all gamely trying to nail the key by depressing their accelerators. Whatever it is they got, kiddies, y’all need some and that’s a fact. Tetragrammaton’s programme is rich, resonant & thorough, and I gots to say this disc at all times maximizes the potential of its three musicians, always employing them as usefully as possible. In other words, you tell me there’s a quintet playing this music, I’d believe ya! It’s said on the webwide that these motherfuckers share digs and gigs with Nishinihon, Acid Mothers Temple and their ill Nihonese ilk. Sounds rather good, though I’ve heard none of these collaborations. Most important is that this Album of the Month is a hugely coherent and vastly rounded work; the kind of monumental thing you might have expected siphoning out of some New York City 8-track studio some time in the last 30 years, but which has ultimately fallen to the ever-thorough Japanese Underground to bring forth. Damned fine, gentlemen, I thank you.