It isn’t often that I come across new music via Facebook, but there’s one page in particular which manages to occasionally supply wonderful new sounds to my “timeline” or “wall” or whatever it’s called now. This page is responsible for my coming across the mighty Spanish band Toundra, now at their third album release. It’s always a pleasure to see post-rock pushing its boundaries, trying to integrate a little more musical influences in its otherwise air-tight inner circle of echoes and simply appear fresh again, as it should be.
Sometimes I forget that this genre isn’t actually all that new, but the fact is the original post-rock bands started cropping up in the early nineties, which would make it about two decades old, and I’ve been listening to it for about half that time now… Ugh, it’s always depressing when you start measuring things up this way – sometimes there’s just too much perspective to be had. In any case, listening to Toundra’s “III”, the feeling of old age was probably the last thing to cross my mind. This is a vital, angry, fast album, with very little nonsense and self indulgence (not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that – I am after all a prog-rock maniac, just saying…), with a knack for effective buildup and a real feeling of mass and what it means to sound “epic”. The guitars are sharp and tough as nails, the bass is a growling monstrosity nipping at your heels and the drumming is a savage, warlike thing of beauty, and that’s just the base of the whole musical structure.
Toundra take it one step further and manage to gracefully integrate a few sounds which you seldom find on a standard post-rock album: the occasional brass instruments to be heard, the sweeping strings punctuating the songs once in a while – not so much that it becomes a gimmick, but just enough to add depth to the textures of the album – and, the surprising reemergence of certain guitar techniques at key points make this album a refreshing and delightful display of musical flexibility and ability. When I say “certain guitar techniques”, I’m actually thinking of a definition of post-rock I once heard which stuck with me – “using rock instrumentation to create non-rock music”; well, Toundra has the audacity to actually bring back some of the grit, simplicity and emotion of hard rock – the splendid guitar solo at the peak of Requiem, the wonderful bass grind and collective “HEY!” in Espírita, the final track, are just two examples of a wonderful integration of styles which make this band stand out.
The overall mood of the record is one of urgency and rage, with the all the blood lust and confusion this state tends to incite in people. Even the occasional slowing down of the tempo during buildups never seems to allow for a lightening of the mood, sometimes due to masterfully used dissonance, other times thanks to the predatory bass, but most of the times because of both of these elements at once. This album is fierce and its contagious – I wouldn’t recommend listening to it while driving, unless you’re in a rally or something. It makes the blood race and the eyes flare, it brings forth images of jungle cats and barred teeth glistening, it makes the skin prickle and I’m pretty sure, in the right context, it might very well provoke a visceral fight or flight response. I heartily recommend it on all of these accounts, it’s a wonderful gem of a record, and well worth your time. It’s also available on Bandcamp, and even as a free download (although donations are encouraged), on the Spanish site Aloud Music.
I really hope you enjoy Toundra, and I’ll see you soon with a lovely surprise!