Tuesday, October 7, 2014

TUU - One Thousand Years (Original TC Review)

SDV Tonträger/Waveform Records: 1993/2001

(2014 Update:
Talk about redundant opening paragraphs. Yeah, it was important establishing what sort of borders we'd set for ourselves at TranceCritic, but as is abundantly clear at this blog, I care not a lick about staying within the lines. I suppose it makes calling this place 'Electronic Music Critic' disingenuous on my part, but it was the title I picked long ago, a logical evolution from the old website. Besides, despite my occasional dalliances into rock or other, I've kept things mostly on an electronic tip (yes, I'm including hip-hop in that now too).

Some additional information here that I neglected before.
One Thousand Years was in fact TUU's first album, self-released on their own label before joining up with Beyond/Waveform. I always thought this came out shortly after All Our Ancestors. Lord Discogs led me astray! It makes sense though, the music here more minimalistic compared to their other material. Still really neat stuff though, if you're into atmospheric ambient as conceived by cultures from the before times, the long, long ago.)


IN BRIEF: The Ancients beckon.

For an electronic music review website, we here at TranceCritic sure tend to overreach the boundaries you’d expect of the genre. Not so much the producers who’ll take traditional instruments and fuse them with techno beats - that’s common. And not even old rock songs given the ol’ dance make-over. No, I’m talking about acts that are known for other music but may dabble in synths on a whim.

While it’s fine and dandy that we don’t restrict ourselves to a narrow field of music, it does cause a slight problem: how far can we push it before what we’re reviewing no longer fits typical electronic productions? If an experimental new wave album from Neil Young is allowed, then should all new wave and synthpop acts be given the same attention? And what about hip-hop? The Godfather has been invited, so shouldn’t the rest of that branch be allowed, especially since that music is technically more electronic than Primal Scream’s?

This is a big can of worms we flirt with on occasion but always within reason. We don’t just cover electronic music, but also the culture that comes with the package. The clubs, the outdoor parties, the chill rooms, the gear heads, the trainspotters, the DJs, the warehouses, and even the stadiums. As splintered as many EDM scenes became over the years, they still all more or less encompass the same ideals, which distinguishes it from other music scenes. Some intermixing does occur but this is primarily the reason genres are often separated the way they are in music stores.

This reads like a big disclaimer, doesn’t it. That’s because this album you’ve clicked to read a review on fits into the ‘not-quite-pure-electronic-music’ category. Might as well explain myself for once again straying from the beaten path, eh?

So, who exactly is TUU? This is a group comprised of Martin Franklin, Richard Clare and Mykl O’Dempsey, with other assorted guest contributors. During the ‘90s they made a few ambient albums together before disbanding to pursue other interests. Their sound was rather unique when compared to typical ambient offerings of the era, in that it often conjured up images of ancient exotic tribal clans gathered in a meditative circle, which probably wasn’t too far off in the audience they’d play for. The reason for their effectiveness lies in the instruments they use. Martin played the percussion, usually gentle beats on clay pots, small gongs, and other simple forms. Meanwhile, Richard’s use of soft woodwinds gave their songs warm melodies. And providing the atmosphere would be Mykl, using an assortment of synths.

As you can see, two-thirds of TUU doesn’t rely on anything electronic to produce their music, and Mykl’s use of synths are dressing for the tracks. In some instances, his contribution does lead, but Richard and Martin are usually the main focus. It begs the question then just how much of an electronic album One Thousand Years is, and if it should even be covered. Oh, foolish you be should you think such things. Yes, TUU do sound more organic than electronic, but this is still ambient music in the truest sense. Although easily playable in any environment, and even somewhat co-opted by New Age folks, ambient has largely remained within the domain of the electronic faithful.

I suppose you are wondering if I’ll ever get around to the particulars of One Thousand Years. That, I’m afraid, is tricky. This is ambient, after all, and detailing tracks is rather futile in that the music doesn’t follow any conventional form. TUU enjoy feeling their way through their songs, often times dwelling on the long vibration of a gong beat or a drawn out flute note while an eerie or calming synth smoothly slides in the background. Generally, a song’s elements will come into focus early on, with the trio improvising with each other for the course; a tribal rhythm or chant may crop up to add a little variety but not often.

As for their tone, TUU tend to remain melancholy, even at times mournful. I mentioned earlier at how their music can make one think of ancient tribes, but the trio also displays a touch of lament over our loss of the simple innocence that came with those cultures. A few tracks contain some cheerier moments - the spritely flutes in Pan America or the glowing synths in High Places, for instance - but the general feel is sorrowful and reflective. Like most ambient, the music on One Thousand Years works perfectly fine playing in the background. But should you sit down, ignore all that is around you, and just listen to what’s coming from your speakers, TUU’s work takes on a meditative quality where you’ll find yourself becoming lost within your own thoughts.

Although One Thousand Years is technically over a decade old (Waveform re-issued the album for American distribution - apparently the original European version is quite rare at this point) it hardly shows its age. Of course, this is partly for the fact TUU’s sound already has an ancient feel to it, but the production quality is top-notch as well, with each member’s contribution sounding clear and concise with plenty of room to breathe. While I wouldn’t consider this an essential purchase for fans of this sort of music, if you like your ambient quiet, contemplative, and tribal, then One Thousand Years is worth your attention.

Written by Sykonee for TranceCritic.com, 2007. © All rights reserved


ACE TRACKS:
Pan America
Breath

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