Greil Marcus said, "Everyone knows history moves in circles; the surprise is how big the circles are." But the reverse is true too, history is made of small circles and all those little circles make up bigger ones and so forth. Looking at Tristeza record covers one is struck by the reoccurrence of gyrational imagery. Circles spin out and away, interlink, and break apart. Tristeza are in some sense about the gyre of time, ever widening and then narrowing, contracting. Eschewing those who would lump them into the amorphous category of post-rock, dubious of quiet-loud-quiet formulae, and circumspect towards musical individuality and the sense of One Big Song, the spirit they imbue a record with is the timeless love of musicians keeping time. By that I mean the world, its age, groaning and creaking underneath it.
As circles tighten, pop music tends to repeat itself unable to see beyond horizons of more than a decade in time, and this band, Tristeza, and this new album, Fate Unfolds, continues widening their cycles, past but not post, past a simple generational genre, part and parcel with music from around the world, from their homes and homelands in Tijuana, B.C., Oakland, CA or Michigan, from Afro funk and jazz, Spanish flamenco, tropicalia, Indian raga, to krautrock, and psyche to punk. From the records start with its title "Ava", this is a thoughtful, spiritual flight. The time-space continuum crushed into itself and pulled out from itself, a shed snake skin.
Luis, Christopher, and Jimmy are Tristeza. They're all fathers now, getting wiser as they get older. "Castellón" reflects this with a graceful, yet shadowy noír tone combined with the band's classic circular sonic yearning suggesting some mystery at the beginning of a quest. And though separated geographically in their day-to-day, they make sure that when they're together the music locks in tight as ever, so there's a driving force here that seems downright celebratory. "Blkflmngo"is a scorching African-influenced ripper with a spiky get-down guitar figure that makes one want to dance to keep up with Jim's commanding tom rolls. Hopeless romantic Tristeza fans should be intoxicated and take psychic vacations to "Floripa,"a song for forlorn lovers and fighters so marooned in tropical climes you can almost hear the ocean tide cascading in the background, while "Celestians, "and "Street Tax" are propulsive exemplars of their intricate rhythm mastery, employing just the right slippery textures of analog synth to pull out the spidery dark krautfunk of the bass and drums could've been recorded at Can's Inner Space Studios circa '71.
The album ends with "The Punch" and that’s exactly what it seems to do. Its adorned with all those technical aspects that make the members of this band particularly musicians' musicians: the rhythm and riffage, the shimmery circularity that reaches a crescendo and denouement with synth spilling into real saxophone before the fadeout, all framed tightly with a snare sharpened punk beat. This is vintage Tristeza staking ground like a classic pugilist; life and death in the nimble waltz of Mexican calaveras, the joy and the sadness, la tristeza, the impossibility of one without the other. Like the old mariachis, ni de allí, ni de acá, they are between worlds, and eternally fighting the good fight.
Greil Marcus said, "Everyone knows history moves in circles; the surprise is how big the circles are." But the reverse is true too, history is made of small circles and all those little circles make...
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