Dusted Reviews

Town and Country - 5

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Town and Country

Album: 5

Label: Thrill Jockey

Review date: Sep. 30, 2003

One of Chicago’s most valuable claims is Louis Sullivan, the architect responsible for literal local landmarks like the Auditorium theater and the Carson Pirie Scott. More often than not, his misused (no exception here) maxim, “Form follows function”, surfaces alongside these achievements. The sepia-stained, stately cover of Town and Country’s 5 readily relates to Sullivan’s organic, utilitarian buildings and ideas. Like Reich’s process-based work that informed so much group-oriented music of the past five or six years, Sullivan demanded a re-evaluation of frills and demonstrative peacock-feathered displays of personality, a certain artistic egolessness meant more to accommodate the public than make unnecessary demands on it.

In these regards, Town and Country have been a uniquely challenging group, steeped deeply in the blossoming process of repetition and often subtle to the point of aloofness. That is to say, their challenge has never been extroverted, their music rarely speaks with any specific sense of ideology, and relies only on the purely sensuous materials of sound. It rankles those who expect something else, the ornamental world of fashion music or politic music that lay right next door. 5 is Town and Country's most beautiful, flawless actualization of the goals they’ve been working towards since 1998, and paradoxically, a near-complete rethinking of them, as well. It’s important to stress that while composers like Morton Feldman and Terry Riley seem like immediate reference points, what is so striking about Town and Country is their off-the-cuff, lack of autonomous authority. Like the most progressive period in the Theater of Eternal Music’s history, this music becomes animate because it is executed by a group of people so devoted to an aesthetic that they’ve nearly completely merged into an identity greater than the its individual parts. It’s no longer in the realm of composition – it becomes the very essence of the people participating in it.

The other important facet to mention is that this group effort and its non-academic lineage manifests in a sort of playfulness, in risk-taking surprises that come across as sublime, especially in the first and last tracks on 5. The playing is not virtuositic; rather it’s sensitive, tailored to the sonic, immediate needs of the piece rather than the abstracted language of a score. Where exhausting repetition was at the forefront of their earlier releases, colorful, melodic drones become a new and much-appreciated focus, it shows T & C enjoying a certain kind of freedom, a radical departure from their past that more academic music cannot replicate.

With a tonality fitting in somewhere alongside Gil Evans and Miles Davis’ most restrained playing, and a sense of pace and timbral emphasis that stacks up right alongside Feldman’s For Philip Guston (and like Feldman, the pieces are titled on the inner-sleeve specifically for the instruments that are played), Town and Country find a certain somber, elegiac splendor. Evocative of a blindingly bright Sunday morning, where the bulk and weight, the entire layout of the city and its buildings, seem so incongruously under-occupied. A restful day that couldn’t be accounted for by the farthest reaches of Sullivan’s practicality. This is 5, in its slightly dejected uncertainty, where the very outskirts of logic are eating inwards, where our symbols of function are impotent, and where our forms still roll onward, unable to change on their own.

By Matt Wellins

Other Reviews of Town and Country


Read More

View all articles by Matt Wellins

Find out more about Thrill Jockey

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.