Tera Melos: “Frozen Zoo” (Patagonian Rats, Sargent House, 9/7/10)
On its second full-length album — and first since 2005 — boundless math-rock trio Tera Melos (www.teramelosmusic.com) has broken its proverbial mold, if only slightly, to give a sense of order to its usual musical mayhem.
Nick Reinhart, the guitarist/keyboardist of this thrashing Sacramento-based unit, has given the band what it has never truly had before: a voice. This development isn’t new, actually, as Reinhart explored vocalizations on Idioms Vol. 1, the trio’s recent cover EP, and perfected his own vocal style in Bygones, a wild rock collaboration with Hella’s Zach Hill. But Patagonian Rats is an entirely new brand of Tera Melos, vaulting the trio to new heights.
“We like to play really interesting, confusing, and complex music and arrangements in a really bizarre way,” Reinhart says. “We were a far-out instrumental band for four or five years, and we were ready to try something new. And new for us was [adding vocals]. Adding vocals was a fun, new challenge for us.”
“You can have [a song] that’s in a super jacked-up time signature…but if there’s a clean vocal melody over it, it kind of ties it all together.”
Through the past five years and the addition of new band members, the one thing that has remained constant is the band’s devotion to uniquely arranged punk instrumentals. Its songs are dominated by an ongoing clash between players, as if the band members are taking turns battling each other with high-intensity solos. However, the addition of Reinhart’s vocals adds a unifying quality to the band’s controlled chaos.
“It seems like vocals are something that no matter who you are, or what knowledge of music you have, you can always relate to,” Reinhart says. “You can have [a song] that’s in a super jacked-up time signature, that’s weird, but if there’s a clean vocal melody over it, it kind of ties it all together.”
And so it is on Patagonian Rats. By no means does the band adopt a familiar, radio-friendly sound — it continues to keep the listener off balance with spastic drums, math-punk guitar noodling, and driving bass distortions that combine in unexpected ways on signature tracks such as “The Surf Skin” and “Frozen Zoo.” The vocals themselves still are secondary, as Reinhart’s voice often is reserved for the background and flavored with an echoing quality. Nevertheless, the stripped-down vocals allow Tera Melos to keep the essence of its signature instrument-driven style, while infusing another melodic element into its songs.
A multinational tour — another first for Tera Melos — coincided with the release of Patagonian Rats, and the band hopes that this album’s success will lead to a self-sustaining career in music. “If we can afford rent six months from now without having to work a real shitty job or have to borrow money from our parents, that would be super successful for us,” Reinhart says. Regardless of whether some commercial acceptance lies ahead for the globe-trotting trio, one thing is for sure: in order for Tera Melos to enjoy the success it desires, Nick Reinhart’s voice can’t get lost in translation.