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Taurpis Tula - Endless Alphabet of Light

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Artist: Taurpis Tula

Album: Endless Alphabet of Light

Label: Wooden Finger

Review date: Feb. 21, 2007

Industry standard plastic CD cases may look nice on your Ikea shelves, but if a label or an artist’s imagination stops at the music, you’re being short-changed. Getting this Taurpis Tula disc through the mail was more like receiving an anonymous love letter than an album. It seems that Paul LaBrecque’s (of Sunburned Hand of the Man fame) Wooden Finger label has taken a bit of extra special care in this case. It arrived wrapped in stiff tissue paper, detailed with printed feathers, paint and bark, and tied with string. And once inside, the music has just as much personal detail.

This doesn’t sound like your typical improv unit dropping off the ledge into the maelstrom. Endless Alphabet of Light sounds like David Keenan, Heather Leigh Murray and Alex Nielson have found a way of riding the brakes and the waves at the same time. There are no obvious declarations of purpose or mood here, more currents of suggestion.

The playing parameters of the trio sound like they’ve been sieved through black matter since the release of Steel Rods Bruise Butterflies in 2005. With separate elements standing out more, it’s possible to hear structures within the improvisations where they’re probably aren’t any, an innate sense of knowing where to go appearing as purposeful melody.

The relatively weighty hints of construction are most obvious on the opening and closing tracks. A loose railroad clattering rhythm is at the former's foreground, sounding like pierced-knuckle punched tin. At points, it’s difficult to discern the high vocal parts from the guitar, the scratchy pulse sounding in the neighborhood of human. The closing piece rolls on a looped organ pattern until it’s sunk by the warped string and percussion that boils around it.

The bulk of these six performances are closer in spirit to the duo recordings , like Sparrows, than their recent work suggested. The second track is particularly reminiscent of that era, the whistles and wind of distant desert dockland deconstruction being cleaved by Keenan’s treacly guitar riff. The peaks of pedal steel bleeds through like fluorescent color spilled across city maps. Capturing the essence of pre-regeneration shutdown town Glasgow and the Texan wilds, these are field recordings from some slo-mo hinterland just left of reality. The third untitled piece also carries the heavy star-spotted fog of Taurpis Tula’s pre-Nielson holocaust glitter, Murray’s echoing notes forming skeletal veins and bones like soft pencil strokes on paper.

Delivering on its promise to reveal itself as every bit as special it looks, this proves that spending that little extra time on your appearance can definitely pay off. It's time to put album art back up there alongside great music.

By Scott McKeating

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