Terrestrial Tones – Oboroed / Circus Lives

Terrestrial Tones
Oboroed / Circus Lives

Individual band members participate in side projects for many different reasons, often building upon their talents and using their inventiveness to expand their musical horizons. Other reasons may be to collaborate with other artists or to realize more artistic freedom and control. It’s hard to imagine what the reasons Eric Copeland (Black Dice) and Dave Portner (aka Avey Tare of Animal Collective) had in mind for their partnership as Terrestrial Tones; obviously, collaborating with other artists and possibly to realize more artistic freedom and control, but certainly not to use their inventiveness to expand their musical horizons. Both Copeland and Portner have achieved moderate success with their respective bands and seemed to have taken a step backward as Terrestrial Tones.

Oboroed / Circus Lives is basically two long tracks of experimental sound collage. Both are constructed in the same manner using loops of instrument samples, found sounds, vocalizations, and noise to create slowly shifting waves of electronic music. The songs start with one or two loops that slowly change as other loops are added on top, taking their place as the first ones slowly fade. This process continues until you are left with a seemingly unending, electronically manipulated discord.

“Oboroed” is the first track and the mellower of the two, clocking in at 31:01. It starts soft enough on a single note while a hazy noise floats in the background. Six minutes in, as the note fades and the background comes forward, the new background becomes a soft fog-horn loop and some buoy noises that create a lost at sea feeling. As a steamship nears and the noise starts to build, you think you might be rescued but instead you get laughed at, loop after loop. The laughing is replaced by some chirping birds, which changes to machine noise and monkey grunts before turning into broken bits of conversation, more laughing, and distant accordion.

“Circus Lives” is a bit shorter at 21:26 but is wilder and more abrasive than “Oboroed.” It starts with morse code beeps and an occasional high squeak that segues to walkie-talkie noises to pinball game sounds with high squeals to a Space Invaders- (the video game) influenced marching drum that eventually morphs into a very noisy sonic assault with freestyle guitar wails.

Given the way the tracks slowly reveal themselves with not so many musical tones as sampled sounds, it seems Terrestrial Tones is an apt name for this side project. But given the simplicity of tracks and the lack of any tuneful song structure, this disc is more like a school project for an electronic music class than a legitimate side project.