Across Tundras – Sage

Posted on April 7, 2011

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Neurot Recordings

5/17/2011

 

Considering its fiercely independent stance on business ethics and focus on signing artists from varying backgrounds, it’s no surprise Neurot Recordings has begun to dabble in the indigenous sounds of our great nation as of late. We first heard the Americana influence in Scott Kelly’s recent solo material, and again on last year’s excellent Run Thick in the Night by U.S. Christmas, itself an eclectic snapshot of a unique band flexing every creative muscle in its collective body. But nothing could have prepared us for the spiritual odyssey Across Tundras have penned on their Neurot debut, Sage.

It’s actually a bit strange even using the word “debut” to describe this band’s output seeing as they’ve dropped a whopping seven album in five years. Their blend of dusty Southwest country and fuzzed-out sludge went down like grainy moonshine on early releases, a fiery concoction the trio has distilled to a more palatable texture over time. Sage’s seven enthralling tracks go down like refined tequila and are best enjoyed in similar fashion: with a cool summer’s breeze whistling over a sprawling, cacti-dotted landscape in the shadow of a late afternoon sun. Just submit to Tanner Olson’s dexterous, lethargic leads on “In the Name of River Grand,” his gruff twang when he sings “Broke down in the desert sun / Rattlesnake bit on the road,” and wait until that worm kicks in during “Buried Arrows”’ disorienting saloon melee. You can practically taste the arid soil; hear the distant howl of a coyote in the echoing bass break on “Hijo de Desierto.”

It’s a call to expansion that’s impossible to ignore, an irresistible Manifest Destiny composed not of ink or paper but of leather, denim and a few buttons of peyote. The Spirit of the West beckons you deeper into the infinite horizon, his mirth morphed into malice and seething feedback at “Tchulu Junction.” Vultures circle your weary, trundling form as drums shake the cracked ground in steady hoof beats. Your lungs struggle against the cloudy distortion until faint war drums set your pace. With renewed purpose, your shuffle becomes a slow run before thunderclap cymbals push you to a full sprint. Now delirious with fatigue, your legs move independently as time stretches in defiance of your attempts to escape. “Shunka Sapa” nips at your heels until everything below you becomes hollow and the last thing you see before you meet the earth is a the moonlit glow from the oasis you’ve seen in a thousand previous dreams.

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