Release Date: Mar 8, 2011
Record label: Western Vinyl Records
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
When reading a band’s name for the first time, a certain image comes to mind. The individual words aren’t seen as single entities but as a whole and the whole is meant to generate emotion and thought, whether negative or positive. For Wires Under Tension, their name implies precisely the texture of music to be expected: something kaleidoscopic and prophetic.
Every music scribe loves a band with a good back story, and Wires Under Tension admittedly has an excellent one. Bandleader Christopher Tignor is a techie (he's getting a Computer Science PhD and is a software designer for Google) with a background in serious avant-garde music (he's studied with and/or worked for composers LaMonte Young and Paul Lansky), but he combined his interests in music and technology for his Slow Six project. After Slow Six was booted from its Brooklyn-based headquarters, Tignor and drummer Theo Metz decamped to the South Bronx, where they began making music as Wires Under Tension.
Instrumental albums can be a difficult nut to crack. Without lyrics providing a guide to a record’s particular theme, your primary access point is the music itself, in all of its abstract glory. What you can hope for is that totally wordless albums somehow have a narrative arc to their construction, or engage in playful experimentation to draw you in.
Last year, amorphous Brooklyn post-rock commune Slow Six put out a reliably solid album called Tomorrow Becomes You, and ‘reliable’ is surely the last thing that anyone expects of post-rock in the 2010s. It’s fitting, then, that this year, Slow Six maestro Christopher Tignor and recently adopted drummer Theo Metz fake a manic episode and gorge themselves in a new set of oiled electronics to form Wires Under Tension. Tignor’s swapped in a few androids, but it’s the usual revolving door of guests for him.
When last we heard from Christopher Tignor, it was in the days immediately following the release of Tomorrow Becomes You, the third studio release under the Slow Six moniker. For most of the 21st century’s first decade, the New York-based band deftly towed the line between classical and popular music, taking the experimental dash of composers like Harry Partch and Karlheinz Stockhausen and suffusing it with the hypnotic ambience of 20th century minimalists like Steve Reich and Arvo Pärt. For those of us whose musical cultivation is as steeped in Brian Eno as it is in Beethoven, the idea of a group like Slow Six seemed positively utopian; classical training and technical mastery meets pioneering innovation and rock n’ roll cool.
Portland, Ore.'s Dirtanp Records certainly has its eyes upon Texas. These CenTex all-stars – featuring Mike Wiebe of Riverboat Gamblers on vocals, Mark Ryan of Marked Men on guitar, and members of Bad Sports (also just signed to Dirtnap) in the rhythm pit – sound exactly like a synthesis of all those bands on third LP Welcome New Machine. Plus some obvious influences: The "Incorporeal" chorus sounds like Devo's "Uncontrollable Urge." Much like lablemate Ryan's new Mind Spiders, there's a focus on whoa-oh-oh vocals and power-pop-punk riffs as exemplified by "Backbone," perhaps the first punk song ever to reference worker drones and queen bees.