06 June 2021 (released)
26 July 2021
Debut albums should be all about experimentation. Plant all kinds of seeds and see which plants bear fruit. Play around with tempos and keys. Crossover all kinds of genre boundaries. A debut with 10 versions of the same song shows a lack of depth, you're a one-trick pony. Eventually settling into your signature style makes sense but in the beginning, variety is your friend.
From the hills of Eastern Australia, comes the debut record from experimental electronic alternative artist Tenuous Threads. The producer's new EP Mettle spans from the dreamy modern synthpop of fellow Aussie Kevin Parker to broad expansive post-rock. Not only is his range of sounds ambitious but the subject matter is very bold, especially for a new artist. Taking a cue from the Nordic noire storytelling genre, Tenuous Threads explores the psychology of an abduction victim from when she is taken to her eventual release. The five tracks are an empathetic journey through harrowing mental and physical trauma.
A heartbeat kick begins the drama on the opener 'Abduction'. He sings in a nasal croon over arpeggiated clean guitar. His lyrics imagine the terror and confusion of a young girl half-conscious making sense of her frightening situation. The vocals have an ethereal 80s quality to them. Threads doesn't quite hit the mark on this one, with the vocals pitchy in the initial scene. Eventually, when the heavy guitars enter to close out the song he finds the notes to drive the track home. 'Hope Springs' is a catchy mid-tempo number in the vein of Tame Impala with an added layer of twinkle.
The album's centrepiece and strongest track is the eight-minute opus 'Is It Any Wonder?'. Folksy fingerpicking introduces this 70s prog-inspired piece. Threads voice locks into its niche. It's hidden somewhere in between the sneering whine of Les Claypool and the airy coo of Sean Lennon making the track perfect fodder for fans of the Lennon Claypool Delirium. Here the vocals really find their place amongst the big droning guitars and doom stomping drums. Audio clips of news reports mark the year anniversary of the abduction as hope for the victim of ever being freed wears thin. A new snappy section of stop-start drums and fuzzy bass makes for a perfectly creepy soundtrack to the saga. Tenous Threads manages to take disparate, ever-changing sections and weaves them together masterfully into a brilliant sonic journey. The plodding outro with its wheezing “I wanted to belieeeeeve!” refrain recalls Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats at their sludgiest.
The Claypool vibe continues on through 'Lucid Delusion'. His vocals mesh well with disjointed melodies. Here he goes off on a harmonizing jazzy-prog solo over crunchy chords.'Now or Never' finishes the tale with a track that is pulsing with Jane's Addiction-style syncopation mixed with a Waters-like theatricality. In the end the girl escapes, scarred but emerging a survivor.
Mettle gets full marks for the tenacity of its storytelling. Tenuous Threads struggles a bit trying to create a more mainstream pop sound on the first few tracks but the latter three are teeming with obscure prog-rock brilliance. That's what debut records should be about: experimentation!