Somnambule - Writing About Music

Tarwater ~ The Needle Was Travelling

The Needle Was Travelling is Tarwater’s fifth album and their first for Moor Music since their departure from Kitty-Yo. Tarwater is a duo made up of producer/instrumentalist Bernd Jestram and To singer/ instrumentalist Ronald Lippock, perhaps best known as one third of German post rock group To Rococo Rot.

The Needle Was Travelling begins with gurgling squelches rivetted into a prowling hiphop beat in turn menaced by lurking guitars. When the vocals kick in the music takes an unexpected turn: vocals change everything, serving as an unavoidable focal point. The socio/biological conditioning that enables each and every one of us to be incredibly fine judges of vocal pitch and tone is the preparation we need to survive in a potentially hostile world. So what does the tenor of Lippock’s delivery tell the listener? Well, he’s generally insouciant, just the right side of casually sneering. He’s cool and calm and the subtext is that he’s an urban soul, maybe taken a few knocks and isn’t going to reach out too far, but is willing to tell you a story or two, make a few observations. He’s too shagged to swagger, but he’ll stroll and stare. That’s the cod psychology for you, anyway.

The music is a sophisticated meshing of guitars, busily efficient rhythms and electronica. It’s in somewhat similar territory to Funkstorung, but executed in a much more convincing manner than that group’s Isolated project. Stone, with its jangling guitar and synths, is reminiscent of New Order, located somewhere between Power, Corruption and Lies and Low-Life. Babylonian Tower recalls classic Cluster but played on guitars by Americans. At times, as on The People, Tarwater achieve a convincing rhythmic integration that comes on like a technologised rhythm and blues. Interesting, in a good way. The group ultimately prove hard to pin down, ably dancing around the lazy darts of easy generalisations.
Colin Buttimer
February 2005
Published by Milkfactory