Tied & Tickled Trio: Aelita

Bob Burnett: Tied & Tickled Trio, like Tin Hat Trio, are not a trio. But that doesn't matter. It just seems to be one of those things that for some reason needs mentioning. Maybe it's because I used to get the two bands mixed-up. Why? I don't know.

Tied &Tickled Trio sometimes are six, sometimes twelve or some other number and regardless of their line-up they never sound the same. On their current release Aelita the Tied & Tickled Trio happen to be Caspar Brandner, Andreas Gerth, Markus and Micha Acher and Carl Oesterhelt. In one form or another they've been something since 1988. Just like previously reviewed Contriva, they are part of Morr Music's artistic roster.

They describe themselves as "a band that listens very carefully to what their sounds do. A band that permits them to be surprised by themselves." They continue to surprise me too. I probably have about 4-5 of their various releases and they all strike me as incredibly diverse and very different from each other. I hear smatterings of On U Sound, Miles Davis, King Tubby, Peter Brotzman, Terry Riley, Gong, Lee "Scratch" Perry, Cluster, on and on and on. They take all these pieces and many others and make incredibly interesting music.

I was originally drawn to them in 1998 when they were one of the strongest contributors on Derek Bailey's album Playbacks. If you have any interest in improvised music and you've never heard Playbacks I suggest you do something about that--and head straight to cut 5. The story on Playbacks is that New Yorker magazine music critic Sasha Frere-Jones assembled a number of musicians to "create an active rhythm track that (guitar improvisor) Derek would like playing with". The participants on the project included Henry Kaiser, Jim O'Rourke, John "Plunderphonics" Oswald and nine others. Tied & Tickled's rhythmic offering was infectious and Bailey quickly caught their bug. (note: I later heard the Tied Tickled Trio's stand alone version used on Playbacks on a CD compilation c60 pal Kim put together for me. And by the way, Sasha Frere-Jones wrote a very controversial review of The White Stripes that caused fevered discussion amongst the c60ers)

So, after several albums that touch more on driving, jazz-based rhythms and textures of energetic sonic concrete overlays they came up with "Aelita"--a quiet, meditative, slowly pulse-based effort. They write about Aelita on their myspace page as music that was quickly created for a concert. "That's why this album exists today" they write and continue by saying the music was, "created only in three days. Recording, arranging, mixing. As rough and open as possible and still very concentrated, minimal, melancholy and excessive. A slow and well-travelled dub, "tamaghis", echo-chamber-music, the orbit as sounding space. "

I find Aelita to be an obsessive listening experience; I've probably put it on twice a day since I got it last week. It is quiet and contemplative; touching on electronica but is not a genre-fitting electronica effort. It features slowly building vamp-based grooves, melodic layers and gentle rhythms. I am amazed that this came about as a sudden effort--it sounds very complete, polished and thought-through.

There are soundtrack-like elements in it which makes me wonder if it was influenced by its namesake--a long lost and practically forgotten 1924 Soviet era science fiction silent film .

Whatever the intriguing mystery may be, this is an excellent effort--by the way pay no attention to Pitchfork's 5.2 rating. They missed the mark on Aelita.

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