A happy 10th anniversary to Perth’s Tangled Thoughts of Leaving, who have outlasted many contemporaries through evolution. No Tether is evidence that there is still plenty of room for growth in post-rock, as long as artists are willing to blaze their own paths.
While one can return to Tiny Fragments and hear hints of the current sound (an angular lean, an exploratory feel), the distance traveled is astonishing. The band’s ambition first became noticeable on the 15-minute “The World Is a Deaf Machine,” released only a year later, but the band’s greatest stab at perfection was 2011’s Deaden the Fields. The morose Yield to Despair followed in 2015: dense, grungy and black. By this point, the tracks had grown long and nearly impenetrable; for example, the long, squalling breakdown of “Downbeat.” Would this be the band’s final statement, a descent into the angry abyss?
No Tether is a purposeful departure from Yield to Despair. While one would hesitate to call the album accessible, the tracks are shorter, the offerings greater (t-shirts, cassettes and bright aqua splatter!). Melody is more apparent; the tonal palette has moved from black to blue like a mood ring recovering from death. There’s a sense of something large here, beginning with the use of the opening track as grand overture and ending with the ambitious title track, which seems a different entity, separate yet removed, like a bionic arm. And in the middle, there are almost singles, albeit twice the length; let’s call them stadium fillers instead.
Post-rock is not the only genre here. Post-metal is a clear influence, along with the experimental post-jazz of Mouse on the Keys. The album’s entry point is to follow the riff: once one knows that the band refuses to “let it settle,” listening becomes a lot more fun. Exchanging repetition for deconstruction, Tangled Thoughts of Leaving now has a perfect album to represent its name. “Signal Erosion” and the title track are the set pieces closest to the band’s defining music. It’s easy to get lost in these caverns. But the album still yields remarkable points of access, from the energetic launch of lead single “The Alarmist” to the horn section of “Binary Collapse.” How loud can one play this? Why not find out?
No Tether refers to the compositional process, but the concept is applicable in a wider sense as well: when one throws off the chains of expectation, one is freed to make bold moves. This trailblazing attitude has carried TToL through its first decade, and we suspect will sustain them through their second as well. (Richard Allen)