Friday 10 August 2012

Transmontane - Staring Back At You

Album review by KevW

Ryan Duncan, head honcho of Transmontane and co-founder of Chicago label Sick Room Records sure knows how to pen a tune. Unfortunately this proves to be his downfall if new album 'Staring Back At You' is anything to go by. He knows how to pen a tune, and so the eleven that make up this LP are barely distinguishable from each other. Variety is entirely absent and the song titles serve little purpose besides dividing up these virtually identical compositions. Apparently Transmontane's work has drawn comparisons to Galaxie 500, Smog and Neil Young. Well, yes you can hear elements of those artists here, but it's a bit like saying Shaking Stevens has drawn comparisons with Elvis. The difference being that Shaky at least added a certain amount of diversity.

The problem isn't that the songs here are bad, indeed this kind of sludgy, distorted indie-rock can provide highlights on some albums. But eleven songs of the exact same effects, the exact same mood, the exact same tempo and (barring 'Sunset') pretty much the exact same length is just too much. 'Molecules' begins proceedings promisingly, as though it's the calm before the storm; an introductory piece that will lead into a thoughtful and well produced indie-rock album. But, no, that's it. What follows is another ten songs built from the exact same parts, as though the songs were bought in bulk, flat-pack from Ikea. Trying to select individual tracks to show this album in a better light is a challenge, they're all same make and model, like a car manufacturer's production line.

It's not a total loss. There is feeling in Duncan's voice and none of the tracks are excruciatingly bad, it's just so monochrome that it's difficult to feel any emotion for. A bit like the Spitting Image puppet of John Major, this is a constant shade of grey. The really frustrating part is that you want this album to work, diversity could help retain concentration more. Hell, bring in a drummer, or a backing vocalist. Anything. It feels wrong to write off Transmontane as there could be potential here with a little more outside input. But if variety is the spice of life, then 'Staring Back At You' is like making a curry that consists of some chunks of meat, boiled in water and served on plain rice. A shame.

Transmontane's website

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