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Dwellers On The Threshold

Dwellers On The Threshold
(Mute/Kitty Yo!)

With so much music coming out that I want to hear and a somewhat limited budget, there are naturally bands that I can't keep complete track of. Tarwater is one of those groups, and the last time I checked in on them was clear back in the late 90's on their Rabbit Moon Revisited release (which is now out-of-print). In the meantime, they've been recording albums at a fairly steady pace (including Silur, Animals, Suns, and Atoms, and Not The Wheel.) and one half of the duo (Ronald Lippock) also records with his brother in the group To Rococo Rot. Like the Chicago scene in the United States, the German state of electronic music is a rather incestuous one, with many people a part of one, two, or even three or more groups (another example is Marcus Acker of The Notwist, Lali Puna, and Tied And Tickled Trio).

In regards to Tarwater, though, their sound has evolved on a fairly even path. The main difference in sound seems to be that the group has loosened up quite a bit in terms of their former austere (and sometimes downright cold) sound. While there are still tracks that keep the listener at an arms length with emotional detachment, Dwellers On The Threshold also manages to breath a fresh breath of life for the group in many spots, employing different people on vocals and plenty of acoustic, organic instrumenation.

You probably wouldn't guess that from the first track on the release, as "70 Rupies To Paradise Road" has that same cold-edged rhythm of old, and although it features Tone Avenstroup on vocals, her deadpan delivery doesn't exactly exude warmth. The clouds part almost instantly on the second track "Metal Flakes," though, as an acoustic guitar provides the main rhythm while some warm strings add even more lightness behind the still somewhat monotone vocal delivery. "Diver" follows the track up with another lighter acoustic-guitar driven/string backed instrumental. It's on "1985" that the two worlds meet, as a somewhat dark electronic intro gives way to another nice acoustic guitar melody and what is probably the most sing-along vocals that the group has ever done.

While the album still has it's moments that sound more like the group of old (the darker "Tesla" and almost electronic chamber music of "Now"), the group also produces one of their prettiest tracks ever in "Miracle Of Love" (a cover of a Swans track). Those familiar with the group may cringe at my use of the adjective "pretty," but I must state that the track still has plenty of gurgling electronics and a slight minor key that nobody will mistake it for anything too radio-friendly. Still, it's nice to hear the group branching out with what sounds like a harpsichord and subtle guitar melodies over their soupy low-end. If that track was good, though, it's the epic album closer of "Imperator Victus" that's the stunner of the album. Backed by a loop of slowed-down twangy guitar that sounds like it was pulled from a 50's record, the vibe melds perfectly with the baritone vocals reciting words from Hart Crane poetry. Not intent on keeping their dark moody vibe forever, Tarwater has introduced some new elements into their sound and it's breathed a new life into their music.

Rating: 7.25