[sic] Magazine

The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol – 3xLP boxset

Bring revered and successful in your own lifetime is clearly a lot of artists’ goal, but many are quite content, too, just to keep plugging away at what they enjoy doing and, if others happen to enjoy that as well, then so much the better. Instrumental rock behemoth TBWNIAS may already have the critical plaudits, but they haven’t yet shifted much in the way of significant units. Last year’s Master Of The Molehill LP was, nevertheless, the first of their dense oeuvre to be sold outside of their native Canada. Keeping the momentum going in an attempt to lift them from select obscurity to notable niche, the venerable Cardinal Fuzz label have now gone deep on the band’s Birdman Sound back-catalogue to offer up a 3x LP retrospective from the vault. And, for those that like their tunes physical – physical as in like you hold them, smell them and, on occasion, be beaten up by them – it’s an ideal opportunity to get (re)acquainted whether new to the party or a confirmed fan unable to score copies of their tiny private presses to date.

First crawling out from under some frozen rock way back in 2008, TBWNIAS have the air of a band of who just keep getting better and this run of albums, each of which has its wow moments, confirms it. Together they provide two hours of numbing crush and neck-popping shred, individually they can be taken as a whole, but comprise nonetheless of Vs The Purveyors of Conspicuous Authenticity (2010), which was amazingly recorded in a single take without overdubs, so too the kraut-tacular Scrappy Little Jaw (2013), as well as the mega-grooves and stoner drones of Pathfinder (2014).

TBWNIAS tend to fade in and out as they please, electrical interference and feedback often contorting into fuzzy kosmiche and smothering jams. Hard-rocking chug and razor-edged riffs lock on and strongly resist evasive measures. Chimes and strings resonate throughout allowing them to bleed into bleak post-rock composition. Space-rock FX and molten guitar drag their lengthy statements on into heavy blasts of motorik repeats. The oldest material of the bunch, the Purveyors LP is undercut in many places with serious buzz, synths firing off like car alarms to interrupt wheezy passages of organ. Tenebrous guitar lines are picked out from the murk, bass riffs hammering away like a pneumatic drill on concrete. This doozy of a slab is dominated by all 17 minutes of “West Nile Curiosity”, a kraut monster that lurches like a drunkard, eerie synths and shaky tremolo sounding like pedal steel. Despite dropping out midway for a bout of chilly sci-fi dither that builds back for a deconstructed outro, it’s all like listening to Föllakzoid out on a trip under the prairie stars.

If Purveyors can be said to represent the depths of the Canadian winter, then the Scrappy Little Jaw LP shows signs of spring. Its opening “Berlin” is suitably kraut. Teutonically emotionless, absolute precision is softened by fuzz, post-punk angles stepping up periodically with powerful surges that roar like melt-water cascades. Glistening fresh from a rut on the tundra, other cuts flex their muscles confidently like a prize-fighter. A high-water mark for the retreating snows, hard-rock riffs and blatant doom are washed away almost entirely on “Sask.” (surely short for Saskatchewan) in favour of psychedelic indie-rock vibes, Eastern meditation now accompanying their long-hair, ramshackle ass-kicking. From there on in, though, it’s an album that speeds like a ghost-train down a never-ending escarpment, each of its tracks housing a calculated clatter on which each player jams to his own beat trying to nail down a groove. Taking in bluesy backwoods blowouts and downright oppressive weight that feels like gravity just got heavier, Scrappy Little Jaw is an album that peaks with the brilliant “Neu Sudan”, a track which twins the dumb violence of thrash with what sounds like a joyride straight through some orchestral pit.

Like Purveyors, Pathfinder in turn spins around a central statement – a titular exercise in coruscating feedback that contains some of the heaviest blues you’re ever likely to come across. Its bass bars drop like anvils and its crescendo sounds like what selling your soul at the crossroads actually delivers. Orbiting this black mass are riffs that Kyuss could only dream of – “Penquistix” in particular coming on like a pool party for deadheads. In between, weirdo ambient noise and massively reverbed guitars shake the shit out of the waveform, square-jawed grooves cruising into maelstrom psych-rawk. At all times TBWNIAS sound like they’re gearing up for an assault, their music the sort you might blare on approach in an attack chopper. If they can continue to apply this same mentality to the mooted new album coming later this year/next that may be the one that finally forces itself on the public at large, whether they’re ready or not.

~The 3xLP spined sleeve, foil-stamped presentation boxset is limited to 148 copies worldwide and is released 8th July 2016 via the collaborative efforts of Birdman Sound/Cardinal Fuzz. Comes with download codes.~

TBWNIS – West Nile Curiosity from TBWNIS on Vimeo.