No musical genre has quite had the history that post-rock has had. In its short lifetime, it has been both kissed and cuddled, slapped and beaten; once the favorite pet of underground music critics and indie kids alike, it’s now regarded as an old dog with no new tricks, with just about every new post-rock release being cast off as “predictable” and “boring.” We can all see those explosive guitars from a mile away, and when they come around, they just don’t hit us in quite the same way they used to.
Unfortunately, it’s attitudes like this that cause some absolutely amazing records that introduce totally new things to the post-rock table (such as last year’s Winter Hymn Country Hymn Secret Hymn by Do Make Say Think, one of the best albums ever in my opinion) to go largely unnoticed, or receive less praise than they would have in an earlier era. Tulsa Drone’s debut CD, No Wake, is another great post-rock album that probably won’t get much recognition in music circles due to the collective post-rock withdrawal, but is worth seeking out for its unique sound.
What’s interesting about Tulsa Drone is the mood of their music and their choice of instrumentation. Using little more than a bass hammer dulcimer, wiry guitars, and crashing drums, they manage to elevate what would otherwise be fairly standard post-rock songs into a unique, cinematic realm of music that few other bands could touch. It’s music that’s both as dry and scorching as a desert, and as lonely and mysterious as a wintry forest at night. There’s certainly something sinister going on here, and the amount of tension is incredible.
Take, for example, the first track, “Chiaroscuro.” Setting the tone for the album with its Western twang and dark feel, it builds with loud guitars and the dulcimer, which trembles and dangles along. The excellent “Vendetta” follows it up nicely with even more dulcimer, used here to great effect, fading in from the start and working as the backbone of the whole track. The end result is something that’s hypnotic, dark, and just a bit rocking.
Although the next two tracks continue to show the band’s more rocking side, it is perhaps their quieter, dronier songs that are the standouts. “D‑A-F” is a thick brew of pretty, clanging guitars that ring out from the depths while a simple two-note dulcimer line runs underneath. The beautiful closer, “Red’s Theme,” is the album’s most gentle, melancholic, and perhaps best track, with simple strummed guitars and distant swells of what sounds like an organ. Standing out from everything else here, though, is the title track. An absolutely huge and loud drone of tangled, chiming dulcimer, it’s almost too dense for my ears to navigate through. Sometimes, it’s a chore to listen to, but even then, it’s without a doubt the album’s most interesting cut.
At less than 40 minutes in length, it’s a rather small, nice little gem of an album, but it isn’t perfect. It has its weaker moments, and with the lack of different instrumentation, the songs can all begin to sound the same at times. But the ferocity and talent that’s shown here more than makes it forgivable. And so, while most will probably walk past this and dismiss it as “just another post-rock album,” I’ll be sitting here listening to it. I urge you to do the same.
Written by Richie DeMaria.