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Raime, "Tooth"

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cover imageFour long years ago, Raime released an absolute monster of a debut album with Quarter Turns Over a Living Line.  Since then, I periodically found myself wondering when Raime was going resurface and how Joe Andrews and Tom Halstead could possibly top such a visceral monolith of seething gloom.  Apparently, they were wondering the exact same thing and ultimately decided not to even try.  Instead, Andrews and Halstead have picked up guitars and reinvented themselves as a quasi-post-hardcore band, a detour much more in line with their Moin side-project.  Aesthetically, I suppose that was not a bad move, but Tooth nevertheless feels quite undercooked, one-dimensional, and lean on ideas.  This probably should have been a single or an EP (at best).

Blackest Ever Black

For better or worse, the opening "Coax" essentially conveys the last four years of Raime’s evolution in just 4 minutes, though the magnitude (or lack thereof) of that evolution does not fully reveal itself until the album unfolds in exactly the same vein for several more songs.  I suppose it may be a bit of an oversimplification to describe Raime as a post-hardcore band though, as the thick sub bass, simmering groove, and metallic percussion flourishes are hardly new for the duo.  There are even some ominous synth-sounding swells that weave a characteristic aura of menace.  The melodic foreground, on the other hand, is devoted to a very simple and dissonant guitar motif.  The overall feel is one of tautness and smoldering, slow-burning tension, which is definitely something I can get behind.  If Raime has moved into the rock realm, they have certainly done it with their stellar rhythmic instincts and ability to control a mood intact.

Unfortunately, the next song ("Dead Heat") is essentially just more of the same.  The groove is a bit more propulsive and the guitar riff is slightly different, but the riff variation is purely academic: it is just a different very simple, dissonant motif from the one in "Coax."  There are admittedly some nice howls thrown into the mix and some cool understated harmonics woven into the groove (and a wonderfully dull and ominous church bell-like sound, as well), but it definitely feels like a very close variation upon the previous theme.   As does the following "Hold Your Line."  And just about everything after it.  While I definitely admire the duo's commitment to sinuous, stripped-to-the-bone minimalism and unreleased tension, whoever is playing guitar seems hopelessly fixated on flogging the same uncomfortably harmonized cluster of notes to death.  The mood is unrelentingly monochromatic as well, which I will presume was a deliberate artistic choice and one that would have worked if the music was a bit more varied and interesting.  As much I want to like it, however, Tooth just sounds like a band with a great rhythm section saddled with a monomaniacal guitarist who cannot stop playing the same damn riff and they all seem to be playing a single endless song that never evolves or catches fire.  This is basically the musical equivalent of Sartre's "No Exit."

Of course, a lot of people seem to like this album a lot, so I guess that makes Tooth “polarizing” rather than unambiguously flawed.  It definitely took some guts for Andrews and Halstead to cast aside a formula that had worked so well for them and I can definitely recognize how difficult it is to do what they are trying to pull off here.  Unfortunately, I can also recognize that they did not quite succeed…at least not album-wise.  Taken in single song doses, there is plenty to like here, particularly when the duo throw in any kind of unexpected element (like the shouts in "Stammer").  Every song feels so damn interchangeable when I try to make it through the entire album though, which makes for a very numbing and exasperating listen.  Or an uncomfortable and claustrophobic one, if I am feeling charitable.  Either way, I was a bit underwhelmed: Raime can do better than this.  I am going to optimistically chalk this one up as a promising transitional album, as I think there are still a few puzzle pieces that need to be added if Raime wants to keep pursuing this vein.

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Last Updated on Friday, 08 July 2016 08:08  


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