I heard about Tarentel about a year ago, but for some reason the review that I read or the description that I saw just didn't do enough for me to really get interested in them. Finally, the thing that actually got to me enough to finally hunt down their disc was that one of the song titles on their release was called "For Carl Sagan." That might seem like a pretty damn silly reason, but for a fan of the author and lover of slowly progressing "post rock" (or whatever they're calling it these days) music, it seemed like a perfect fit. Rah.
Tarantel is a four-piece band out of San Franciso that mix guitars and percussion with all kinds of old-school synths to create music that ranges between dreamy soundscapes and thunderous math rock. With 5 songs on an album that clocks in at almost 75 minutes long, they definitely take their time getting places, but generally make the most of things by subtlely laying several elements and not managing to fall into too much of a lockstep.
The release opens up with "Steede Bonnet," and the track plunks you down right in a desolate but beautiful place. After a bit of radio static and a very quiet opening, guitars start shimmering down on one another while another one plucks away a lonely melody Ennio Morricone style. Imagine the soundtrack to laying on your back in the desert at night with a sky so clear that you can see the satellites overhead moving through the starfield, and you're just about there. The second track "When We Almost Killed Ourselves" again starts out with only a quiet hum of noise, but soon the track bursts into motion and sounds like something the late A Minor Forest may have done. About halfway through, though, things drop off and the group pulls off quite a nice transformation, turning the beast into another lap-steel flavored gem.
With no track clocking in at under 11 minutes long, the group gives themselves a lot of time to play, and they do just that on "Ursa Minor, Ursa Major." The seventeen-minute track goes through tons of different segments that somehow all fit together. They take even longer getting to the paydirt on the aforementioned "Carl Sagan" (stretching things out to over 20 minutes). The track really just works as one long, building crescendo (sort of like what you'd imagine from Godspeed You Black Emperor!), and when the huge finale finally comes, even it is drawn out and works well as a release to the long buildup. I'm not sure what Sagan would have thought of it, but it's probably my favorite track on the entire release.
The final track on the release stays pretty true to form with the rest of the tracks on the release with quiet and loud passages. On a whole, whether or not you enjoy the release will at least partially depend on how well you handle tracks that sometimes take a solid chunk of time to evolve. Granted, some groups would have probably cracked the larger pieces into two or more individual tracks, but part of what's nice about Tarentel is their ability to make things flow so nicely. Some very excellent music from a band to watch out for on a small label that is developing into quite a great thing as well.