It’s no surprise Alexander Hacke was recruited to remix the opening track of Tussle’s new album, ‘Tempest’. The whole album feels like the culmination of that exciting period in the 70s and 80s when a jet engine and a spanner were considered legitimate musical instruments. And I mean that in a good way.
Unlike a lot of their contemporaries, Einstürzende Neubauten’s music was not as crude or unlistenable as you might expect. Instead, Bargeld & co. were able to craft beautiful melodies, danceable basslines and genuinely memorable songs like ‘The Interim Lovers’ without sacrificing their unique approach to composition and song structure. In fact, their ability to construct memorable hooks and melodies with this avant garde approach without fear was one reason they were able to surpass the boundaries of industrial and post-punk music.
And this is one of the reasons why Tussle feel like their successors. Their ability to draw together disco, indie, techno, industrial and IDM into something that doesn’t feel like technological showboating or pretentious drivel. ‘Cat Pirate’ in particular features whimsical arpeggios that dance playfully over a beat that is equal parts industrial and disco, without descending into Thrill Kill Kult territory. However brief this album is, there is something to be said for the “less is more” approach. Long, rambling, self-indulgent arps and loops are foregone in favour of instrumentation and songwriting that is completely devoid of any fat one would want to trim. But then again brevity has always been a trademark of Tussle, allowing individual tracks to explore different themes and sounds rather than having an album of 23 half-finished thoughts.
Though there are no lyrics in this record, the anthemic melodies are so catchy and enjoyable they act as a better chorus than a lot of today’s pop music, honest and attractive without being affected. In a style favoured by !!!, Tussle manage to balance intelligently made music with a sound that just plain slays the dancefloor. Krautrock, disco, techno and disco are balanced thoughtfully in a way that doesn’t seem contrived or pretentious; rather than being overly aware of introducing too many elements, they instead content themselves with simply employing the sounds and frameworks that are necessary.
If there were to be a “weak track” it would have to be ‘Yellow Lighter’. Though it does have redeeming features (well-executed bass lines and minimalist shimmering guitars that bleed effortlessly into synths), it seems to lack direction. The rest of the album is very sure of itself, as though there was a definitive conclusion to be reached but ‘Yellow Lighter’ just doesn’t have that, after 5:50 it just sort of fades out at a point that could have been – and was – reached several minutes earlier. The album closer ‘Lighty Salted’ effortlessly picks up the ball and gives us yet another funk-laiden bass line with plenty of bite. But that’s not to say this is the focal point of the track, backmasked synth washes and echoed horns give us an uplifting and climactic encore, resolutely closing the album with typical self-assurance. If ever !!! or Gang Of Four were to be heard on this record, this is it.
The opening track ‘Yume No Mori’ has to be one of the tightest sounding songs I’ve heard in a very long time. A driving bass line and raucous drums afford the band the opportunity to really explore their sonic palette as both synthetic and live instruments take turns to battle it out in what could be described as the band’s mission statement. The bass line in particular, while fairly simple, is so clean and voluptuous that it consumes the entire space you’re in. In this instance, and in the drum programming in ‘Moon Dog’, one can not underplay the role Optimo’s JD Twitch had to play in the studio; his dance sensibility coupled with the band’s knack for experimentation and composition makes this record their strongest to date and a great argument for the producer and studio becoming equal members in the band. Let’s pray this is not the last time we’ll see this collaboration.