Rock music, particularly non-vocal rock music, can be at its most satisfying when it operates based on principles of instinct and force of expression. When hard-working (intelligence is not always a factor here) musical brains have the skills to manifest their ideas shooting from those principles, the result can be exhilaration and desire for repeated listens to work out just what was going on when you listened the first time. The Temporary Residence label is associated with this kind of approach to music, but very rarely will it release something that is as ill-governed by tonality and linearity as Complex Full Of Phantoms.
The two bands at work here are gloriously and heroically brief and direct in their individual assaults, but the opening statement is rightly handed to By The End Of Tonight. 'Delaware Is Depressing' is a pummelling Roman shield to the face, hermetically woven guitar lines clashing and adjoining at exactly the right harmonic corners. Percussion, too, spazzes brilliantly like an appendage should. This is not to say that because they are combining melody, rhythm and harmony together in a clever way they have no surprises reserved for the listener (speaking of which, it should be pointed out that this track is about 40 seconds in length and segues imperceptibly into the brilliantly-titled 'Philthy Collins'). The jabs of sound come in waves of nod-able riffery and equally righteous avante interjections, offset against one another efficiently and rewardingly.
But this is only half the picture, yes? The half belonging to Tera Melos is somewhat lighter, but no less fierce and complex. And it's nice to hear some singing after the instrumental onslaught of everything pre. As we hear them warble in 'Party With Tina', one should always "learn to use your discretion", and it's something that Tera Melos enjoy doing. The climax of that track features, strangely (and deftly borrowing from An Albatross), some jazzy horns and saxes that do seem indulgent – the discretion is exercised when they decide to hilariously halt everything after only a few seconds of excess.
As a whole, though, Complex Full Of Phantoms still works very well indeed. It’s fortunate that both of the 'loads of loud and then a bit of quiet wiry stuff' narrative of each half doesn't put us through too much too quickly, and also that we're thrust through a medley-esque journey of musical styles in the concluding 'Last Smile For Jaron'. In short, there a lot of things that could have gone terribly wrong in this collaboration, but none of them has. Here, we celebrate inventiveness balancing with the already-established, and the tremendous value of restraint. And not for a single second is it boring.
8Daniel Ross's Score