Review: tētēma ‘Necroscape’

Now here’s a very welcome return, one that perhaps given how busy the two main instigators behind the project are, you’d have been forgiven for presuming they would not surface again. For tētēma – lest you be unaware – is the vehicle for the conspiracy between avant garde figureheads Anthony Pateras and Mike Patton, rounded out here on this second album with the additions of violinist Erkki Veltheim and drummer Will Guthrie.

tētēma ‘Necroscape’

It’s been six years between the initial Geocidal album under this particular banner, and it would seem Necroscape took five years to come to fruition. As laborious as the process no doubt was for all involved, the end results more than justify the effort. Necroscape is not only a worthy successor to Geocidal, it’s perhaps superior.

This was always going to be an inventive piece of work given the cast of players involved and the previous groundwork laid. Here the quartet have pulled off a work that’s all over the map, but is at the same time fully formed, bearing the undeniable stamp of all involved but having a very clear sonic identity; in other words if you’re rolling your eyes going ‘oh great, another Patton collaboration’ you’ll need to reconsider.

This is very much a group effort, though the man himself plays a blinder, skittering across his full range, and leaning as much on melody as the kind of abstract vocalisation you’d expect. If Patton’s involvement is what draws you in, I guarantee that you’ll also want to explore the work of Pateras, Veltheim and Guthrie after you’ve heard this. No single player takes the reigns or overshadows the others.

Similarly, suspend your prejudices if you think ‘experimental’ is code for ‘a load of random parts thrown together’. Though the form may be mutated, these are songs in the traditional sense rather than just pieces of music, each being a self-contained kaleidoscope of sounds supporting a solid and at times even catchy structure.

tētēma are not purposely out to confuse the listener, but to surprise and delight, providing a musical haunted house where each room offers a different decor…

The more extreme moments, such as the technicolour nightmare of Cutlass Eye or the panic attack robotics of Soliloquy share a jagged propulsion that can be jarring at first, but on repeat listen reveals a flow all of their own – Guthrie’s performance on the latter alone is award worthy.

But for every synapse damager like these two, there’s a more instant moment. Wait Til Mornin’ sounds like Einsturzende Neubauten remixing a bhangra record; Funerale Di Un Contadino offers up some crooning Italian balladry; and on All Signs Uncensored a form of mutant jazz pop emerges before drifting into a droney ending.

Necroscape doesn’t overstay its’ welcome, doesn’t fuck around, and doesn’t have time for indulgence. There’s more ground and more ideas covered in the first three songs than there are in many bands’ entire discographies, and at the core of the record is a sense of constant motion.

tētēma are not purposely out to confuse the listener, but to surprise and delight, providing a musical haunted house where each room offers a different decor.  There’s a lot going on, and you’ll discover something new with each listen.

Label: Ipecac Recordings
Band Links: Official | Bandcamp

Scribed by: Jamie Grimes