Tarentel and Howard Hello

(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

From Bone To Satellite (1999), 7/10
Looking for Things/ Searching for Things (2000), 7.5/10
The Order of Things (2001), 6.5/10
Lazarus: Songs For An Unborn Sun (2003), 6/10
Howard Hello: Howard Hello (2002), 7/10
Howard Hello: Don't Drink His Blood (2003), 6/10
We Move Through Weather (2004), 6/10
Home Ruckus (2005), 6.5/10 (mini)
Ghetto Beats On The Surface Of The Sun (2006), 8/10

Tarentel, the project of Jefre Cantu-Ledesma and Danny Grodinski, is a San Francisco-based experiment in instrumental music. Originally a four-piece ensemble, they debuted with a double-length 75-minute album that contained only five compositions. From Bone To Satellite (Temporary Residence, 1999) is a magnificent plateau of desolate, dilated, arpeggiated, minor-key, synth & guitar, instrumental post-rock scores a` la Godspeed You Black Emperor. The album contains five lengthy compositions. The 11-minute Steede Bonnet and the 12-minute When We Almost Killed Ourselves ebb and flow, but mainly drift, weaving textures of irrational mathematics. The former takes shape slowly from a quivering guitar, releasing a "Morriconian" twang against a mellow, languid, Pink Floyd-ian backdrop. The latter mutates from prog-rock fury to ambient tinkling.
The 17-minute Ursa Minor Ursa Major exploits tiny events to produce gigantic waves of sound. The inferno abruptly fades away and a gentle strumming introduces to a majestic Pink Floyd-ian melody.
It takes about seven minutes of its 21 minutes for Carl Sagan to reveal a melodic theme. Once it appears, it gets refined over and over again through ever more intricate counterpoint and more forceful drumming. Again, it turns into a thundering crescendo, but this time the ending is a cosmic radiation that glides away for about five minutes.
The 11-minute closer, Strange Attractors, is unusual in that the melodic theme is present from the very beginning, so most of the song is actually occupied with the disintegration, rather than the construction, of the structure (albeit with a sudden outburst of space-rock jamming).

With the line-up paired down to only Trevor Montgomery and Jeff Rosenberg, but a huge cast of session-men playing everything from strings to horns to accordion, Tarentel recorded The Order of Things (Neurot, 2001). A more humane feeling surfaced from the stark, carefree solemnity of Tarentel's six new compositions (actually four, because two were very brief interludes).
The eleven-minute Adonai is grounded in a infinite pattern of guitars, with a gentle trumpet phrase hovering above it. After seven minutes, the guitars disappear, replaced by an electronic breeze that slowly changes timbre. If the beginning of the piece was reticent, the ending is enigmatic to say the least. The twelve-minute Ghosty Head layers a fragile female voice over slowly-dripping piano notes. After six minutes the piano disappears, and the voice is lfet to fend for itself in a suddenly hostile electronic environment. The piano fades in and out, and the initial sense of safety is broken forever. The 14-minute Death In The Mind Of The Living is made of only electronic droning for nine minutes. As usual, the drone is continuously transforming, in this case moving from a harmless process of tone exploration to a threatening sense of impending disaster. After nine minutes, it briefly reveals its true essence: sustained notes by the stringed instruments. Then the drone reappears, and it grows in both intensity and dissonance.
Much more lively is the seven-minute Popol Vuh, the closest thing to a regular rock song, in which a veil of sustained, slowly mutating string drones sketches a melody that the drums propel to a crescendo of sorts. The other track with drums, the eight-minute Blessed/ Cursed, does not use them for fueling the process but for mere decoration. The funereal horns, the electronic bubbles, the guitar glissandoes and the ghostly voices that compete for attention are independent of the tempo. After four minutes, the music dies and then resurrects as a fragmented guitar lullaby.
The frustrating element of Tarentel's trancey music is that the piece often ends without ending. A logical pattern ends, and something else starts within the same piece. The effect is not so much disorienting as amateurish, and, ultimately, simply spoils the atmosphere that has been patiently created.

Ephemera (Temporary Residence, 2002) collects five rarities, including the epic-length EP Looking for Things/ Searching for Things (Resonant, 2000). The 15-minute Waltz (not on the EP) is one of their typical crescendos, but it layers reverb after reverb until there is only huge drone left to drift away. The 15-minutes Looking For Things opens with one of their most radio-friendly tunes, which gets slowly decomposed and eventually leads to a catastrophic crescendo and to a catastrophic disintegration (a four-minute coda of subsonic noises). The 24-minute monolith Searching for Things is adrift in warm guitar tones for abut five minutes, but then, propelled by steady drumming, a lazy, languid melody rises that slowly turns into a majestic hymn. The last nine minutes, again, are but a nebula of tiny noises.

Mort Aux Vaches (Staalplaat, 2002) documents a live 1998 performance.

Tarentel's guitarist Jefre Cantu also released an EP of digital soundscapes, Spring (Dreams By Degrees, 2002), under the moniker Colophon. The violent psychedelic noise of Shining Skull Breath (Students Of Decay, 2007) was instead credited to his full name, Jefre Cantu-Ledesma.

Trevor Montgomery launched the project Lazarus with his Songs For An Unborn Sun (Temporary Residence, 2003), that also features Marty Anderson of Dilute.

Tarentel's bassist Kenseth Thibideau (also in Rumah Sakit and Thingy) formed Howard Hello with Dilute's guitarist Marty Anderson and Court and Spark's vocalist Wendy Allen, thus a percussion-less trio. The seven-song album Howard Hello (Temporary Residence, 2002) concocted an original synthesis of distant elements such as psychological depth, open-ended dynamics, electronic sculpting, acoustic guitar fingerpicking, irregular time signatures, dissonant events, minimal arrangements. The focus was on post-folk numbers such as Television and Prozac, that articulated a strategy of non-linear development. If that was a post-industrial variation on John Fahey's primitivism, the disorienting ambience of Belief, Dream and America sounded like a post-nuclear variation on Brian Eno's futurism. And the atonal dirge Revolution bridged the two worlds.

Howard Hello's Don't Drink His Blood (Temporary Residence, 2003) is a more straightforward work that invests in lush electronic textures and ends up sounding like a close relative of Brian Eno's alienated pop muzak (False Hope, Giving Up, My Friend, The Parasite).

Tarentel's We Move Through Weather (Temporary Residence, 2004) is a mixed bag. The combo has largely abandoned any ambition to rationalize its sound, but the free format that ensued tends to be self-reflective even when it is meant to be breezy and pneumatic (Hello We Move Through Weather, Bump Past Cut Up Through Windows). On the other hand, the 15-minute A Cloud No Bigger Than a Man's Hand does provide an adequate account for the limits of counterpoint and harmonic development, first jazzy and twang-melodic and then purely cacophonous.

The four song EP Paper White (Temporary Residence, 2005) and the 43-minute mini-album Big Black Square (Temporary Residence, 2005) contain improvised material that was left out of We Move Through Weather.

The EP Ghost Weight (Acuarela, 2005) is sweet, velvety and transparent as their best work, bordering on a supernatural dimension.

The 30-minute nine-song Home Ruckus (Root Strata, 2005) is a study in counterpoint, juxtaposition and improvisation that straddles the border between rock, jazz and ambient music.

Live Edits Natoma (Root Strata, 2006) documents a live performance.

The monumental double-CD Ghetto Beats On The Surface Of The Sun (The Music Fellowship, 2006 - Temporary Residence, 2007) is a four-volume series that collects music recorded between september 2004 and april 2005. The most common paradigm of these pieces if a skeletal rhythms piercing through a jelly of glitchy ambience. Their "ghetto" is a psycho-musical ghetto, a mythological "place" of the mind that manifests itself in different guises: the alien dub music of Everybody Fucks with Somebody, the miasmatic industrial music of Dreamtiger, the oneiric free-jazz suspense of Ghost Trees, the pulsing swamp dance Ghetto Ghosts, the distorted vignette of burning wasteland of Cosmic Dust, the anemic musique concrete of You Do This I'll Do That, the dissonant guitar improvisation of Lake Light.
The first volume (Music Fellowship MF21) had the 16-minute disorienting soundscape of All things Vibrations: a reverbed melodic keyboard pattern and a cyclical syncopated drumming pattern yield austere atonal electroacoustic chamber music (with minimal or no percussion) that works as a summary of the techniques of 20th century avantgarde. The second volume (Music Fellowship MF22) had two major pieces: the dizzying 17-minute spastic-motorik nightmare of Sun Place that disintegrates in a whirlwind of audio tumbleweeds; and the 17-minute free-form soundscape Tied To A Tree In A Jungle Of Mystery, an acid guitar jam that becomes a droning keyboard "om" while percussion and other instruments populate the quantum layer underneath, the whole coalescing into a cacophonous apotheosis before falling asleep. The third volume (MF23) boasts the ten-minute Stellar Envelope, a propulsive space-rock jam that sounds like Hawkwind remixed by Faust; and the 13-minute Sleep Map, an ominous quasi-silence populated with cryptic warped sounds, a form of cosmic surrealism that feels like a journey inside a Salvador Dali painting, arriving at a mythical location where the electronic gnomes and the subterranean drones collide. Finally, the fourth volume (MF24) contains the droning, booming, distorted 16-minute Somebody Fucks With Everybody, that takes Earth's doom-metal to other dimensions, and Where Time Forgot, meditational new-age music that reveals an alter-ego of militaristic panzer psychodrama.
Jim Redd's wildly inventive post-tribal or pre-tribal percussive storms add another dimension to a music that already dwells largely outside the real world.

Tarentel's Danny Grodinski formed the Drift that released Noumena (2005) and Memory Drawings (2008).

The Holy See was the white-noise side-project of two members of Tarentel (Jefre Cantu-Ledesma and drummer Jim Redd) that released the racidal noisescapes of Snowing Ash (Root Strata, 2005) and Fucking Physics (Digitalis, 2007).

Tarentel's Jeff Rosenberg was also active in the duo Pink & Brown, the trio Young People and the duo Lumen before forming Lavender Diamond, fronted by country chanteuse Becky Stark, that released collections of smooth folk-pop such as The Cavalry Of Light (LDP, 2005) and Imagine Our Love (Matador, 2007).

Phantom Harp (2007), Corridors (2007) and Over Water were collaborations between filmmaker Paul Clipson and Ledesma. The dvd Within Mirrors (Students Of Decay) collects all of them plus Two Suns (2005), Constellations (2006), Lights & Perfections (2006), Sphinx On The Seine (2008) and Within Mirrors (2008).

Jefre Cantu-Ledesma's prolific solo career yielded the heavily distorted dream-pop of Shining Skull Breath (Students Of Decay, 2007), The Garden Of Forking Paths (2007) and Love Is A Stream (Type, 2010), all of them imbued with strong psychedelic overtones. Conversations With Myself (Shining Skull, 2011) documents the soundtrack composed by Ledesma for an art event.

Tarentel's Danny Grodinski, disguised as Danny Paul Grody, penned the moody abstract impressionistic guitar-based vignettes of Fountain (Root Strata, 2010) and In Search Of Light (Students Of Decay, 2011).

Jefre Cantu-Ledesma and Trevor Montgomery formed Isidore Ducasse and debuted with Isidore Ducasse (Blackest Rainbow, 2011). He also played with the Alps.

Grody and Montgomery also launched the synth duo Believer.

Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, Danny Paul Grody and Trevor Montgomery reunited to form Moholy-Nagy, that debuted with Like Mirage (Temporary Residence, 2011).

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