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Talbot Tagora - Lessons in the Woods or a City

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Artist: Talbot Tagora

Album: Lessons in the Woods or a City

Label: Hardly Art

Review date: Jul. 22, 2009

Talbot Tagora filters ’90s no wave post-punk through a grit-clogged lo-fi filter, sideways hopping over unpredictable anti-rhythms and making stomach-jolting leaps over irregular clusters of notes. Repetitive, psyche-battering noise obscures things – most of the songs sound like there was a jackhammer nearby during recording – yet, after a couple of times through, it’s easy enough to discern pop hooks. Their blend of lurching mechanical grind and teasing, just-out-of-focus tunefulness evokes the Pixies early on, Sonic Youth later, Swell Maps intermittently, Ubu sometimes, yet really none of the current crop of lo-fi-ers. You can look all you want for fashionable references to Jesus & Mary Chain or C86, but this is a whole different animal.

The Seattle threesome comes from the spazzed-out all-ages scene at the city’s Healthy Times Fun Club, with strong, leftist views, a pronounced distrust of material success and a DIY, anyone-can-play aesthetic. Drummer Ani Valley is a teenager who still lives with her mom in suburban Eastside. Guitarist/singer Chris Ando and guitar/bass/singer Mark Greshowak recently moved to an apartment in the Central District and worry about their role in gentrification. Theirs is an earnest, politically aware, sure-I’m-right kind of perspective, but not without a sense of humor. The detuned, slash-and-stumble guitars of “Johnny Lazor” jab in and out of lyrics about going on a “camping trip” and a “ski trip,” in a sort of molten deconstruction of middle class amusements.

“Icthus Hop,” an abstract, vaguely surreal jitter through autistic dance rhythms, dissonant monotone chants and churning onslaughts of distortion, is Lessons’ finest cut. It feels like it ought to be austere, with its extreme lack of melodic and rhythmic variation, yet it turns into a weird, skewed sort of celebration by the end. You can barely help jerking around in time – and you’ll most definitely look like a dork if you do.

That awkwardness is part of the charm. Any dance that Talbot Tagora incites is likely to look like an epileptic fit. Any hooks they create will be submerged in a caustic vat of antagonism. Isn’t that what punk rock – and maybe even adolescence – is all about?

By Jennifer Kelly

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