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Toundra – Des Cabinet des Dr. Caligari Award winner

Toundra
Des Cabinet des Dr. Caligari
by Mark Machlay at 17 March 2020, 6:18 AM

Within a world that is becoming more and more reliant on being on the move, having little energy for more than snippets of music, being reduced practically to background noise that only serves for you to consume more, experience less and move on to the next task, it is refreshing to hear a band that still can serve up a whole experience across a full-length album. Back to the days when bands would painstakingly map out their albums to fit neatly on two sides and be a complete package experience – bands such as PINK FLOYD, YES, and KING CRIMSON – were kings and music weren’t reduced to playlists consumed on your car ride to work or the gym.

Thankfully there are still bands that exist that carry on this tradition. They may not get the recognition they deserve or the adulation of millions as back in those days, but if you look hard enough, you can be pleasantly surprised by new takes on the classic format. Madrid-based post-metal quartet TOUNDRA seek to grab the listener, sit them down and have an hour long experience into a musical narrative. Their latest work, “Des Cabinet des Dr. Caligari” serves more than just an audial component to the listener. It is also meant as a soundtrack to a film of same name. Said silent film directed by Robert Wiene – most likely not coincidentally – is turning exactly 100 years on the year of the album’s release in 2020. The film, as well as the album, is meant to serve as “a dialogue with the listener with the intention of questioning ideas like manipulation, freedom and human nature itself”.

From the opening track and through to the middle “Akt II” there seems to be a relatively quiet and hypnotic, typical shoegaze/post-metal feel until it quickly builds, growing distorted and dissipating to give wave to a melody very similar to that of PINK FLOYD’s “Goodbye Blue Sky”, ending with droning chimes to take us into the “Akt III”. It begins with a single repeated piano chord and haunting single notes from a guitar and displays a dour aesthetic. Later in the song, the guitars throw out some bluesy licks against a syncopated snare roll and some otherworldly synths. “Akt IV” features spacey synth, jazzy guitar chords, some short snippets of guitar melodies, and the heaviest guitar tone so far swelling back and forth between building and getting all anchored in the mixolydian mode. By “Akt V” we return to a more melancholy modulating synth patch with a repeated clean guitar chord progression with slight guitar melody over top. A third of the way, drums build and enter in full giving an anthemic feel to that section before returning the aesthetic of previous sections. The track ends by building the full band again and petering out. Finally, “Akt VI” begins sparsely with a single downbeat on the ride cymbal to another repeating guitar melody, building to more atmospheric texture. A third of the there is tension by a dissonant tremolo guitar bit back to atmospheric sounds and echoes. The final track ends in this nebulous, layering mist the listener is covered in.

Needless to say, the album must listened to as a whole and not in parts to get the full effect of the intention of the artist. This truly is art presented in a musical medium. Is it particularly memorable or hooky? No, but it makes for it in its layering, atmosphere and overall effect a listener perceives in the whole. It is a worthy, though tamer entry into post metal, more close to MOGWAI than to RUSSIAN CIRCLES if that helps a listener choose to give this album a chance.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 7
Production: 10

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Titelsequenz
2. Akt I
3. Akt II
4. Akt III
5. Akt IV
6. Akt V
7. Akt VI
Lineup:
Alberto – Bass
Esteban – Guitars
Alex Perez – Drums
Macon - Guitars
Record Label: InsideOut Music
     


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