Depths to be plumbed
Not all music is readily available to the listener. Sure, in a practical sense it typically is. With the advent of streaming, we’re never terribly far away from listening to a brand new song or album, whether its something with one billion listens or less than 1000. But even still there are styles and genres of music that refuse to provide their secrets to the listener without being deeply probed. The latest record by Talking Book, Talking Book II, demands a close ear and an almost academic level of observation to reveal its secrets, making it the perfect album for our time.
Some background before we discuss the album. Talking Book began as a studio project consisting of conceptual artist Jared Blum of San Francisco label Gigante Sound, and Bill Gould of Faith No More. After the acclaim surrounding their 2011 record The Talking Book they searched for, and located, a new member in Gigante Sound co-chair Dominic Cramp. Cramp is primarily known for his work as Borful and Lord Tang(s), as well as Vulcanus 68. With the newfound creative voice in the group, the band set out to push their already adventurous sound further into the unknown.
Stretching over 14 beautifully cinematic tracks, it would be easy to assume that listening to Talking Book II would be a dull, if informative experience. The truth couldn’t be further away. Whether working your way through the loosely jazzy, nerve-wracking “Thermal Drift” or the haunting “The Last Time She Died,” each track on Talking Book II provides a narrative or emotional impact worthy of your attention beyond its innovative use of sound. In some ways, pieces of the album call to mind tracks from Brian Eno’s more recent, non-ambient records. The synths from “The Last Time She Died” are practically pulled from Eno’s “The Big Ship.”
But this clear influence tends to work in favor of the record rather than against it. Most musicians don’t spend enough effort or forethought when it comes to pulling from their influences. Talking Book II is wholly unique, effortlessly machete-ing its way through genres and sounds. In addition to Eno, “They Came at Dawn” is almost identical to the sound structures crafted by Arca or Flanch, while “Blood Aurora” recalls a slower, more pensive version of what Clark or Fuck Buttons regularly tackle. The result is a stylistically dense masterwork that is engaging without being daunting, enjoyable for both intensive and casual observation.
There are few albums that can so boldly attempt what Talking Book does on Talking Book II. It would not be surprising to see it appearing in lists four or five years from now when people discuss underrated albums. Until then, it’s a beautiful work, effortlessly exposing listeners to new sound structures in easily digestible bites.