Grinding the Wave
Tempest is the latest release from Tussle, the prolific San Francisco-based group that has been turning out jams and grooves under the radar for nearly a decade and claims to be entering its sixth generation. Their line-up changes over the years have been so numerous that it’s tough to pinpoint either where their sound has come from or where it’s going. With Tussle, change is the only constant. The only way to absorb this fleeting sound is to treat it like a snapshot and live in the moment for a few minutes.
Tussle is laying down a kind of disco punk hybrid on this record, mixing and mashing organic and synthesized instruments that ebb, flow, and change quicker than the group’s members. Their sound is built on a solid foundation of drum and bass, which becomes a launch pad for endlessly changing melodies that are alternately sparkling, whining, and buzzing like mechanical wasps. Several tracks come off as a kind of futuristic jazz or spacey funk, with each musician taking turns on the groove–not necessarily soloing but exploring the track as though it were an improvised jam session.
There is a dance vibe pervading Tempest from start to finish. Tracks like “Eye Context” laced with laser-gun sounds, rhythmic claps, stilted melodies and a healthy dose of cowbell, could easily become dance floor favorites. The album itself is practically a DJ set, which is slightly unusual for a four-piece band, but it works in its own way. The hooks will dig into your heels and keep you moving, which seems to be Tussle’s primary goal.
If there is one overarching theme to Tempest, it would be something like “Get up and move.” And it works. If the disco backing and slick basslines of “Moondog” can’t get you out of your chair, you must be either paralyzed or numb. This is a fun record to play when you want to stop thinking. We all do a little bit too much of that anyway, don’t we? Give it a spin–get out of your head.