Tess Tyler is described as a composer, a neo-classical writer who has written scores for both film and game, and has previously released an E.P. of piano based music. So far, so good but what she really is can’t be explained away in as few words. She is so much more, especially to those of us unimpressed with a classical orchestral world’s sense of itself as something highbrow and “important”. Please don’t expect some pompous, tasteful posh girl brushing breathy piano wafts across your face like silk drapes in a light breeze, or an arts council funded cod-orchestral Nigel Kennedy. Absolutely not. If you think more along the lines of Glass/Reich inspired minimalist repetition coupled with a Neu/Barry Adamson/Massive Attack vibe then you’re in the ball park. It’s more Pivot and Zombi than Mae or even Frahm.  Don’t get me wrong there are chunks of piano and strings, and sometimes you can even call it tasteful, but most of the time you are carried along on  euphoric blasts of energy and dark, industrial chunks of melody and rhythm, only to sometimes be turned upside down into a world of fragility and grace, rather than the other way round. Take “Instinct” as an example, which starts in a flurry of arpeggiated synths before giving way to the cavernous echoing drones, and the piano, which starts by licking your face and ends in an insistent rush before the drums enter and push the song into a whole other place of rushing whorls of guitar. It reminds me of David Gilmour Girls.

“Overture” pumps into action with kicking bass drum and forwards/backwards mechanical action before a dramatic piano arpeggio overlays itself like a horror soundtrack, stopping suddenly to give way to the stop start “Sell The Sky”, with its building furious drums and Tangerine Dream style arpeggios. “Origami Dogs” reminds me of “Moments In Love” by Art Of Noise but much more dramatic. “Interlude 1” features a fair bit of Matmos style glitching under its droning piano, and “Not Mine” has a restful pneumatic drill resonance under the pounding drums and Crimson style saxophone, and “7ero” sounds like the opening drones of Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” before once again going all Art Of Noise, all cyclical piano, and a bass drum that moves like a sailing ship on an ocean of honey. “Interlude II” stretches its gossamer wings into the heartbreaking lovelorn piano of “The Nothing Cycle”, before the drums kick seven shades of shit out of it, turning the song into a dramatic procession towards a sacrificial fire…or something!

The second disc features a concert she recorded with the Spindle Ensemble at St. George’s Hall in Bristol, featuring improvised pieces around the compositions, and they are so “improvised” that they sound like completely different songs.  “Sell The Sky” and “Origami Dogs” have been turned into  subtle violin and piano exercises as opposed to the drum barrages of the album. “7ero” has gone all Ruth Underwood marimba under a violin piece that could easily be played over a suspense thriller, and “Instinct” has been turned into a beautiful piano/violin/marimba interplay piece. It is a perfect companion piece to the album and shows how varied and open to interpretation her compositions can be. The whole album speaks of quality and surprising tonal variations which takes it from being a “coffee-table” artefact into a fully fledged art rock masterpiece. More avant than classical.

Andrew Wood


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