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Music Review: Tuatara – West of The Moon

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Sometimes reviews are finished products that accurately reflect a critic or writer's thoughts, opinions, and analysis of a recorded work. Other times, a review is nothing more than a snapshot of the relationship between the writer and the work reflecting only what the writer knows and thinks at the moment the review is written.

Most of the time, I have no idea a review I'm writing is going to be the snapshot rather than the finished product when I'm writing it. I've reconsidered enough to know any review is subject to this phenomenon, but I usually believe what I'm writing will be my final verdict.

In rare instances, I know I'm writing a sketch but won't admit it. On those occasions, I hide behind vague phrases and equivocal words allowing me room to extend and revise my comments later. It's not terribly helpful to readers but it allows me to meet my deadline and beats having to admit I don't know what the hell I'm talking about.

I'm changing my scene with West of The Moon by admitting upfront my thoughts on this record are elastic. Why the change? For one, I'm no longer worried about looking like I don't know what I'm talking about because enough of you have tried to fling that charge at me over the years that I've learned to ignore it. I'm also no longer afraid to admit I don't know everything and don't see a fluid relationship with music as a bad thing.

With all that understood, here is what I'm prepared to say about West of The Moon… today. Tuatara stretched itself and went in a new direction with twin releases in 2007 and it was a good idea that led to some good music. The music of East of the Sun has, at present, left a stronger impression on me than West. It isn't a sequel, but a companion to West. Even if I weren't the type to compare one record to another – and I totally am – comparisons between these two records are inevitable and maybe not altogether inappropriate.

East relied more on male voices and a more desolate sound to power its journey, West features more female voices and the sound has been brightened with some classic elements of R&B. Musically and lyrically, West doesn't feel quite as consistently adventurous.

My favorite cut from West is called "God's Meditation." It is a foreign-language track. I have no idea what language, no idea what is being said or what the words are about (unless the song title is a giveaway). Instead of focusing on the words, my ears are freed to focus on the sounds. Here, the voice is one more instrument added to the mix, and it – like the song – is beautifully expressive and stirring. This song also features more of the hypnotic and exotic sounds typical of Tuatara records past than others on West. "God's Meditation," even with its use of voice, makes me miss those instrumental records.

So, where does that leave us? With a task joyfully half-done. I'm still feeling my way through West and I'm okay with not having all the answers. I've even devised a plan to continue my exploration of this record. I want to listen to East and West in one uninterrupted sitting. I'd like to hear the journey from beginning to end to beginning again, in one infinite circle. I'd also like to take the 29 songs that comprise these albums and listen to them in shuffle mode, allowing these different but related songs to bump up against each other in a new context.

If that doesn't bring me closer to the answers I'm finding so elusive, I'll keep trying and enjoy the pursuit and the journey.

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About Josh Hathaway

  • http://www.marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    hmmm, i don’t really understand the move toward having vocalists but hey, i always feel that way about instrumental bands.

    interesting review josh. i’ll have to reserve judgement on the music until i actually hear it. imagine that!

  • http://www.confessionsofafanboy.com Josh

    What a concept! Novel.

    If they had come to me beforehand and told me they were going to make a vocal record (or two, in this case), I would have tried to talk them out of it. Having heard them, they’re worthwhile and I like them even if I do miss the great instrumental records. Definitely check them out. I prefer East to West but recommend them both.

  • http://www.butterflyfiction.com/journal/ Connie Phillips

    Congrats! This article has been forwarded to the Advance.net websites and Boston.com.