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Tonstartssbandht - "Sorcerer" | Album Review

by Michael Gusev

Past releases from Tonstartssbandht have captured Floridian psychedelic rockers Andy and Edwin White flitting across a nebulous landscape of tasty lo-fi bedroom pop projects, acid hymnals, and twenty-minute live space jams. Sorcerer, their latest full-length studio release, sees them settle into a definitive groove of long-form oceanic song-journeys. The album is three tracks totaling 34 minutes of relentless blitzes through some fairly cavernous thematic trenches of self-doubt and subsequent actualization, because, you know, what else is there to write songs about, really? Ten minute tracks have never gotten so swiftly and earnestly to the point.

For me, the album is about healing. It captures a moment of existential tumult in which the subject is caught in a powerful whirlwind of change, as tends to happen occasionally (or maybe all the time) in our lives. It makes us feel small and powerless and vulnerable -- until we realize that we are that whirlwind, that the power that surrounds us is our own power reflected (sometimes). The title track, sonically and lyrically, describes the subject's reaffirmation after a period of deep existential doubt -- opening with the playfully-falsettoed words "when it meets you, it takes all your power" -- and discusses the way in which that moment of doubt and fear can also be a fertile moment of new-ness and rediscovery, as the subject later screams back at himself, "what'd you leave with me? ALL MY POWER..."

All this is just decipherable enough over the very real sonic whirlwind that is the mind melding interplay of guitar and drums -- the sensitivity and thoroughness of which are perhaps the most prominent facets of the album. The two components are unwavering in their devotion to each other, flowing in the tightest conjunction, informing each other rhythmically and aesthetically as if operated by one mind. What separates the White brothers from other maximalist psychsters like Tame Impala and King Gizzard is this rich intuitive connection that we must assume is a uniquely fraternal one (besides the fact that description-escaping live recordings of the musicians playing together date back to at least 2010). 

Likewise the emotional trajectory of the songs, which refuse to be simple jam-freakouts, instead aspire to an epic mode of storytelling that recalls classic prog album-songs like Jethro Tull's "Thick as a Brick" more than any strictly psychedelic works (that I can think of). It's a fugue state that effortlessly weaves riffs and melodic tidbits. Generating a sense of being timeless and vast but also tiny, pressed into a singularity, kaleidoscoping inward in a single moment of death-defying anguish that's always happening, or waiting to happen to us. For me, it's the delay-laden Whites bellowing and howling over their own sonic storms, "if you're not grappling with something, what's the point?"