The Fleece | Bristol | June 7th
This is Tera Melos’ second trip to the UK, part of a mammoth schlep across Europe and Russia. Although 59 cities, a van and just a single day off stinks of pending insanity, it perhaps also demonstrates how the Sacramento trio’s defining characteristics came to be.
With little fuss, they launch into the gentle So Occult then the raging Kelly, the opening one-two from their most recent LP, Patagonian Rats. This erratic shift in tempo is testament to the band’s sound and what is to come. From the off, Nick Reinhart had his work cut out, manning a sampler, an exhaustive guitar setup and lead vocals.
The trio are part of a post-millennial progression of the math-rock genre where catchy plucking and melody lies on top of the genre’s stripped-down roots. Their sound is a weaving of several layers of rock, and to try and pin them down is an injustice. Songs like When Worms Learn To Fly and Trident Tail are perpetually headed in unexpected directions, hinting at cohesive structures just to knock them back down again.
Tera Melos know all the shit that you don’t – double finger tapping, time signatures, atypical rhythmic structures, counterpoint and blah blah blah. This is delivered through a pretty raw stage setup; no light show or theatrics, except for a ton of pedals and some very loud guitars. The specialist nature of their output has drawn a small but dedicated crowd and all of the between-song chat happens off the mic and solidifies the straight-up nature of the show.
Tonight’s gig is the 42nd of the tour and the resulting psychic connection is evident by the seeming lack of counting or nodding into songs. They are beyond tight and the result of years of work and commitment. Drummer John Clardy plays with a relentless power, but still manages to pepper the delicately arranged parts in The Skin Surf and the vox-less Melody 9. Bassist Nathan Latona is a beacon of energy and delivers dynamic baselines and rasping backing vocals.
For musos and those in the know, this is brilliant. Complex, swirling, indulgent, catchy and even pretentious at times, Tera Melos’s sound exhibits rare finesse and originality. Consequently however, it also requires a pretty high level of commitment and is likely to alienate casual listeners or those that have dropped in to check them out. This is probably more stroke-your-beard than shake-ya-ass, but if that’s your bag then this lot come highly recommended.
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Words: Ian Ochiltree