Music Review: Tussle "Tempest" via Smalltown Supersound

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Music Review: Tussle "Tempest" via Smalltown Supersound

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Naoki Onodera

San Francisco psychedelic disco-not-disco quartet Tussle are clearly in love with Liquid Liquid and the short lived but deeply influential No-Wave scene of early 80’s downtown NY. So it's no surprise to find a couple of Liquid Liquid members on their latest album Tempest, out now on Norwegian smart disco imprint, Smalltown Supersound. They're also obsessed with the free-form jams and the Krautrock that made Can ("Mushroom" and "Vitamin C") and Neu! cult stars among the loft-hopping, acid-dropping set in the mid-to-late ‘70s. Their art rock approach to disco indulges in the nerdy delights of tricky percussion, meandering bass, astral synths, and extended instrumentals, and Glasgow's JD Twitch of Optimo does a very slick job pulling the myriad of abstract influences together. There's plenty to enjoy here—the Dinosaur L style horns on “Lighty Salted”; the cosmic Flamenco percussion on “Eye Context”; the brainy funk on “P44,” reminiscent of Rinoceros, the French husband and wife psychiatrists; the baroque hip-hop in the second half of “Yellow Lighter”; the fried circuit video game bleeps and bumps on “Cat Pirate”; the acidic motorik on “Moondog”; and the druggy atmospherics on “Yumi Nomuri.” If you're not familiar with all the references at play, you could easily throw this into a DFA-inspired mixtape and have a great time, despite the lack of lyrics, a chorus or radio friendly hooks. (Even Liquid Liquid gave you "something like a phenomenon" to croon to on "Cavern.") It's a point Tussle doesn't seem too preoccupied with developing, which makes for a fun, if tidy, album. More attuned ears may be distracted by all the reverent pastiche, but hey—that's what remixes are for, right?