REVIEW: TOUNDRA – “Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari”
Experimental rock is always a fun genre to listen to. There is a break from conventionality. Irrespective of all the possibilities of fun, a break from conventionality could make or break an album. Which means at this point it, having a clear vision of a creative direction really comes under the spotlight. Toundra is one of those experimental rock bands that threads over a narrow balance of experimentation and a trait of conventionality that makes their music sounds different but packaged with an air of familiarity. Toundra’s latest offering ‘Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari’ is one long trip into the possibilities of experimental rock that ever so slightly brushes against a mood of post-rock.
‘Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari’ opens with “Titelsequenz”, a small track that acts as an introduction to the musical aesthetic of what the album has to offer in a limited sense. It almost like something rushed, almost as something that says the album is exciting enough but one need not get carried away with introductions. The pads and the guitar harmonies together create a nice airy vibe that warms you up to the album. The rest of the album is divided into acts, or as the songs are titled “Akt 1” up to “Akt 7”. Through out these acts or “Akt” from 1 to 7, we see a slow progression of the music changing and getting more colorful. From the harmonies to the slow but eventual introductions of drums, the music slowly builds up almost as if all the acts or “Akt” were all parts of one huge song. It is worth pointing out that these songs are also consistently long songs with the exception of the introductory song “Titelsequenz”. The music does get a little eerie with the kind of textures the piano and the guitars produce when they come together. By the sounds of it, a lot of playing styles and picking techniques on the album are certainly experimental. The experimentation with the music orients itself towards creating dark deep textures. These experimental approaches in playing and composition do not necessarily compliment each other in the sense of being one whole unified set of ideas that work in tandem with each other. But maybe that is the point. The harmonies get a little complex with some tasty licks, scales and chord progressions. This is the case with all the acts or “Akt”. From sombre and deeply melancholic moments to sections almost euphoric, a session of listening through the whole album has a wide range of emotions to keep up with, or maybe even waiting to be felt.
‘Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari’ by experimental rockers Toundra is a good album. There is no experimentation for the sake of experimentation. Being experimental works fantastic insofar when the band has a solid creative direction. With right clarity, Toundra has put together a good album. There is no doubt that the album requires you as a listener to make a lot of time to get through the album. But in the pursuit of appreciating quality music, this is a fair demand. From textures to harmonies, there’s a lot in store for the enthusiastic listener. Sometimes I think the music was a forceful break from conventionality from the listener’s perspective. Sometimes you would want the music to go one way to find some sort of cathartic experience in the music during a nice crescendo only to be left out to dry when a section you anticipated for never showed up. Maybe this is the experimental aesthetic that invites the displeasure of those wanting some conventionality. The mix of the album did not do full justice to the creative work of the band involved. The mix and production is good by its own right, but a clarity in the direction of the mix is probably as important as having a clarity in the direction of composition. Maybe even this is experimental, who knows? All in all ‘Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari’ is a well made album by Toundra.