Tarpigh – Monsieur Monsoon

Monsieur Monsoon

These are the facts as I understand them, and if my ideas are misconceived or in any way wrong, I apologize to the folks in Tarpigh, for this is not the easiest band to grasp, and somehow I think they know it and snicker behind our collective backs. Tarpigh, from Portland, Maine, are a trio that formed in 1995. After two self-released tapes, they merged with fellow musical experimentalists Cerberus Shoal and, while not so much losing their identity, were absorbed by the collective. Cerberus Shoal went on to create several albums of brilliance, with complicated yet flowing music and a love for experimental instrumentation.
In 1998, during the recording process for Cerberus Shoal’s Homb, the members of Tarpigh began experimenting on an 8-track, and “Chance,” the opening track here, came about. Somewhere between Cerberus Shoal’s tribal rhythms and the deep-throated chanting that briefly made monks rock stars a few years ago, the song should not be played with your bass turned up high – you have been warned! Over the next two years, Tarpigh continued to work with Cerberus Shoal while setting the formation for this, their first full CD. And finally, in 1999, the band left the Cerberus Shoal fold, although it took this long for the project to be wrapped up and released to the unsuspecting public.
There is no doubt that Tarpigh contributed greatly to Cerberus Shoal’s more experimental side, and hints of that band’s flowing, complicated yet cerebral style of, I suppose we can say, rock are here quite clearly. But Tarpigh, as their own project, are even less attainable than Cerberus Shoal, relinquishing the Shoal’s beautiful, flowing song structures for a more experimental and unique sound. Take the quiet “Wayra,” for an example. You could certainly imagine hearing this as Native Americans dance their ancestors’ tribal dances, while “Guy Rucker” almost assaults you at times with cacophony of horns and percussion. By contrast, “Da O Rama” is soothing and quieter, while the title track throws a little bit of everything at you, quite likely including the kitchen sink.
“Milk 97” has a catchy rhythm and makes full use of the trumpet, a main instrument on this entire album, while “…The Other Thing” is a crazy sort of African tribal dance track that flows into a crashing, moody conceptual piece. Moving on (and yes, there are 17 tracks), “The Clown” is a playful keyboard track accompanied by evil giggling, and “D5” is a momentous, ominous work that makes full use of a pipe organ. “Toys,” as the name would suggest, is a wild ride of assorted noisemakers. Coming back to earth, “Majj” perhaps most closely resembles a Cerberus Shoal track, as it’s over 7 minutes long and flows from quiet and soothing to crashing and intense with no warning. “Shaporatake” has no coherent flow whatsoever, while it’s counter piece, “Shap Or A Tak” is all about booming drums, sudden bursts of guitar, and assorted other noises that come across again with a tribal feel.
For a trio, there are almost too many instruments used on this album to count. The live picture in the CD booklet shows them wearing huge masks and marching band-style uniforms. To say Tarpigh is your average band would be ludicrous. These folks thrive on being unique and trying different things, and while often the result is a noisy blend of real instrumentation and incoherent noise, you can’t help but feel challenged to really appreciate Tarpigh. For they are true experimentalists, and they sample their fare in a way that can be difficult at times and quite beautiful at others. I say let them experiment, and maybe it’s better that they’re no longer with Cerberus Shoal, for now they can be their own entity, as frightening or confusing as that entity and its story might be.