Max Tundra (British electronic musician Ben Jacobs), who debuted with the
single Children At Play (1998),
embodied the figure of the singer-songwriter as it evolved into a
Each instrumental piece on
Some Best Friend You Turned Out To Be (Domino, 2000),
is an eloquent and energetic albeit chaotic digital collage that mines soul,
funk and/or synth-pop of past ages and transposes them into contemporary
an eclectic artifact
manufactured by painstakingly assembling electronic sounds
and samples of live instruments (all played by Jacobs himself).
Ink Me is a catchy ditty clearly constructed in studio by assembling
audio snippets. The process has left its marks on the rhythm, which is
Subsi Kuki is a wild dancefloor piece that is as cold as an iceberg.
Tundra's clockwords range from visionary
(the robotic minimalist concerto Lausanne)
(the limping piano rag Tuli A Plain Ride From Canvas)
(the acrobatic The Balaton)
to pure surrealism
(percussive fanfare Ah There's Deek Now).
Tundra's most ambitious compositions are those that mutate like evolving
organisms. The first part of
is fractured piano jazz that sounds
like a computer sampling a smooth improvisation every other second,
while the second part is a virulent jazz-rock jam.
Bill Bholem Quintette begins with a
Canterbury-esque prog-rock jam that decays into a deranged Brazilian batucada.
The twelve-minute Carbon Cones flows seemlessly from
old-school disco music to
Todd Rundgren-ian high-tech vaudeville and
to abstract guitarscape.
Computers enabled him to dispel the notion that chaos means dissonance.
The addition of vocals (both male and female) on Mastered By Guy At The Exchange (Tigerbeat6, 2002) was not necessarily a welcome change.
The new elegance of the songs was a mixed blessing, as it removed most of
the creative process.
For the first time his music evoked the term "ballad" (e.g., Lysine).
M B G A T E was still charmingly convoluted,
was just straightforward pop a` la
A handful of pieces match the previous album's folly:
Labial resembles a Bach fugue or a Yes song
filtered through a videogame;
the cascading beats of Acorns sting a breathless vocal rigmarole;
the cubistic disco jam Cabasa morphs into Caribbean jazz.
Tundra was still a madman of the studio, but there was now a method to
After a long hiatus, Parallax Error Beheads You (2008),
an even more mild-mannered collection sung by him in person.
The funk fanfare and his soul falsetto in Which Song sound like
The accompaniment to Gum Chimes borders on neoclassical music
and orchestral pop of the 1950s.
Ironically, the sleek and cohesive sound of the third album sounds more
cacophonous than the wildly eccentric sound of the first album.
The reason is that these emphatic arrangements and beats are not tied
to memorable melodies. Listening to songs such as
Number Our Days is like listening to
Phil Collins with the bombast but not
the catchy refrains.
His original mission reappears in the
hyper-active synth-pop novelty Orphaned, an instrumental which gets
virtually destroyed in the process of being manufactured. Other eccentric
the frantic polyrhythm Will Get Fooled Again,
the videogame-infected house music of Glycaemic Index Blues
and the neurotic jazzy chaos of My Night Out.
The eleven-minute melodic fantasia Until We Die is a diligent (if a bit
to jazz-rock and to Yes' prog-rock.
Overall, Tundra seems to be evolving towards the high-tech r'n'b styles of the
There is little left of the cubistic and robotic style of the first album.
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