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Tape - Rideau

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Artist: Tape

Album: Rideau

Label: Hapna

Review date: Jan. 31, 2006

Six or seven years ago, Tape’s latest effort would have gotten slotted under the post-rock banner faster than some scrub could have written “They’re the Tortoise of Sweden.” Others might have drawn a parallel with the expansive melodic bathos of Sigur Ros. Such comparisons might have been within sniffing distance of the truth, but they would have missed the understated bliss this trio emanates. Recorded in glowing, fireside colors by the German producer Marcus Schmickler (a.k.a. Pluramon), Tomas Hallonsten with Johan and Andreas Berthling craft five somnambulant figurines that thrive on hypnotic repetition, tightly woven layers of melody and tasteful flecks of ambient noise.

There are no drums here, so the music wants to float upwards, weightless and oblivious to gravity. The delicate malleted vibraphone on “A Spire” provides not only a pulse, but a lullaby-like theme. The piece pulls one from a dream-like stasis to an irresistible, rapturous rush forward. On “Sunrefrain”, four held organ bass notes create a complacent lull disturbed only by a spare guitar melody. Four minutes in, a piercing ring suddenly appears, like an alarm clock on a Sunday morning, and a vibrant burst of color swells up, its overtones almost excruciating. The same refrain appears later, only now with a trumpet shooting bright brass over the top.

Such simple moves belie the masterful arrangements Tape work up. Sure, they like their melodies easy, almost to the point of naïveté, but the way stretch them, add to them and subtract from them can be mesmerizing. “A Spire” pulses with a clutch of piano tones, but the trio layer on acoustic guitar, thick resonating bass lines and rickety, violin-like scribbles of melody until there’s no room left, creating an illusion of increased tempo. A third of the way through “Sand Dunes”, they change the tune’s slinking lazy course for a new horizon. The timbral mix of acoustic bass and guitar, electronic whir a wheezing harmonium and baby-voiced metallophone, however, remains steadfastly in place.

Rideau is full of these fearless moments. It takes confidence and skill to play so few notes, let them evolve into something new but still maintain the original focus. What’s even more amazing is that Tape makes this virtuosity of understatement seem so welcoming and so human.

By Matthew Wuethrich

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