Album review by KevW for www.soundsxp.com
The Assyrians want to take you on a trip. It's not a trip you won't have been on before, but it's always one worth revisiting, especially when your guides are as magnificent as this Milan quartet. Songs drift wonderfully around your head, glorious sounds emanate from the speakers and an uplifting vibe is the order of the day. Taking aspects from dreampop, psychedelia, indie, ambient soundscapes and simply unusual but fantastical alt-pop, 'Tundra' is an album that provides a non-stop journey through sound; not difficult or specialist sound, this is experimental in a way that's also readily accessible and will curry favour with folks whose tastes lie in many different corners of the music world, and will do so without the need to flit about and change style very often. This is definitely a cohesive whole.
The strange, warped intro to 'Emerald' sounds as though someone's taken a soundtrack from the golden era of Hollywood and played around with it, before suddenly the song is upon us, all thumping drums, sheets of guitar and subtle electronic textures hiding in the background. They start as they mean to go on: with an otherworldly track that's carefully composed and has great attention to detail. 'Hellebore' goes one further, taking '60s psychedelia and many of its hallmarks but filtering it through a modern studio, then suddenly it breaks for an instrumental section that floats off into the ether, taking you with it. It's quite lush and spectacular. Something of this nature is difficult to top, but The Assyrians give it a good go throughout the rest of the album, and they never really let us down by supplying a consistently high standard of music. Single 'Baobab' is another track that soars, lifting you away from the mundane and into fantasy land.
Certain Grandaddy tracks could be used as reference points, and perhaps even more so, the work of Mercury Rev at their most magical. Unsurprisingly, space isn't too far away, and 'Orion' would fit the space-rock category quite well, but as reimagined by MGMT, and another single, 'Astronaut', pauses the journey slightly by mellowing things out and adding a more woozy and atmospheric sound, yet it's not a low-point, in fact it's quite the opposite, recalling early Pink Floyd. The joy of 'Tundra' is that it's full of tunes that are worthy of individual mentions: 'Fossyls' is nicely melodic with some acid-fired guitar; the tempo is upped for possible future indie/synth-rock single 'Oceans'; the short and mysteriously eerie 'Buccaneer' is followed by the oddly nautical and slightly out of step 'Buccaneer's'; the title-track gives us an ambient interlude that's quite befitting of its name; and finally The Assyrians ensure you know that this has been a voyage to remember and return to by giving us the wobbly, coulourful and mildly anthemic 'Darwin'. The name 'Tundra' conjures up images of barren landscapes, but the truth is anything but.
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