Tape: Revelationes

The fifth album from Tape members Andreas Berthling, (Häpna co-owner) Johan Berthling, and Tomas Hallonsten is an enchanting affair in the truest sense of the word. Revelationes is performed with the ease, assurance, and understatement characteristic of a band with many years of experience as a working unit under its belt; one suspects too that Tape's work with Marcus Schmickler (who produced 2005's Rideau in Cologne), Japanese duo Tenniscoats (with whom Tape collaborated on Tan–Tan Therapy in 2006), and Japanese quartet Minamo (a collaboration that resulted in 2006's Birds of a Feather) has also figured significantly into the Swedish trio's current approach to electroacoustic music-making.

A few elements in particular lend the album's music its distinctive character. First and foremost, the electric guitar playing exudes a legato tone one associates with jazz guitar players (clearly audible in “The Wild Palms,” for example), and vibes and electronics contribute a wealth of sonic colour and detail to all seven of the album's relatively short pieces (only one exceeds seven minutes). The organic ease with which the group merges electronic and acoustic sounds is a model others would do well to follow as a template of sorts.

Entrancing the listener from the album's outset, “Dust and Light” serenades with a series of gorgeous chord changes, with the song's lush ambiance coming into focus as a result of chiming electric guitar figures, radiant vibraphone sprinkles, and assorted electronic ornamentation. The spell remains in place when jazz-tinged guitar shadings and a laid-back, loping drum pattern ease “Companions” into position, paving the way for organ flourishes and electronics to add to the mystical atmosphere. A melancholic spirt shadows “Byhalia,” especially when the glassy electronic sounds are joined by a sombre piano theme that repeats throughout the dirge. “In Valleys,” by contrast, offers a subtle sense of uplift in its early morning piano musing and delicate ride cymbal showers.

Tape's music is melodic—one might even find onself humming a few of the album's themes after it's over—but never feels compromised in being so. It's the rare case where experimentalism and accessibility achieve a satisfying balance, and one comes away from the album feeling that if it's not quite a revelation, it's certainly a very satisfying collection indeed. Let's hope the title of the elegiac final track, “Gone Gone,” isn't Tape's indirect way of announcing the end of the group project.

May 2011