Tarwater: The Needle Was Traveling
Naturally, the first question is: “Has the move from Kitty-Yo to Morr brought about a correspondingly dramatic change in the Tarwater sound?” The answer is largely “No” (even if the band didn't develop the songs as it traditionally has by first layering keyboard sounds but instead developed them through the interaction of bass, drums and guitar). That's not necessarily a bad thing, however, as the this latest collection of four instrumentals and ten vocal tracks will likely satisfy Tarwater fans as much as the previous four.
Not to disparage Bernd Jestram's contributions, but the band's defining essence remains Ronald Lippok's vocals, as indelible to the Tarwater sound as Markus Acher's are to The Notwist. Lippock's voice is distinctive, even if its emotional potential is stunted by a monotone delivery; despite its exotic, country-blues feel and acerbic guitar dissonance, Tarwater makes Belgian-Israeli Postpunk Band Minimal Compact's “Babylonian Tower” its own, for instance, because of Lippock's singing.
At root, what mostly distinguishes Tarwater is the caliber of its songwriting craft and the expansive palette of its arrangements; at various times throughout the album, one hears vibes, cello, timpani, and, courtesy of guest Dirk Dresselhaus (Schneider TM), tamatechstar electronic drums; the haunting instrumental “Entry,” for example, features a nicely muted trombone solo over a lush base of horns, strings, shakers, and synth glissandi, while Rechenzentrum's Marc Weiser adds guitar to the bleeding squalls of the lovely shuffle “TV Blood.”
“The People” offers a prime example of the band's arranging talents. After an a cappella opening, acoustic guitar and funk drumming appear, joined later by flute, Arabic sax wailing, and mellotron, all happening alongside Lippock's “The master of superstition is the people,” a revolutionary chant eventually extended into multi-layered interweaves. Guided by a stately, yearning melody voiced by dense layers of drums, acoustic guitars, and horns, “Seven Of Nine” is o ne of the best tracks and classic Tarwater. While the new album doesn't topple Silur from the Tarwater throne, The Needle Was Traveling is still a more than credible addition to the band's discography.