Arms of Tripoli
Dream in Tongues
01. Miniature Habitats
02. Velcro Thunder Fuck
03. Scraping Skies
04. Escalator Jazz
05. 10th Graders Forever
07. Snowed In
09. Ahs a Vahs a Vae
Arms of Tripoli are an instrumental band out of LA built from members of various other local instrumental bands. While its core group of five musicians is a constant, they also bring in others to create more of a rotating ensemble, each iteration with its own unique musical flavor. As would be expected from such a collective ethos, collaboration is at the heart of the music they write. That spirit of collaboration is hugely evident throughout their debut album, Dream in Tongues, and the result is a thoroughly thrilling record brimming with energy and ideas that might just be one of the most promising post-rock debuts in a while.
The most immediate impressions of Dream in Tongues are that of the familiar musical touchstones throughout it. At its core the music is a combination of post-rock of the tightly-wound, heavily jazz-influenced variety—very reminiscent of vintage Tortoise and The Mercury Program—with breezy shoegaze floating on top. This is the more minimalist, building-block approach to post-rock, favoring little snippets of riffs and progressions that build quickly through shifting colors and counter-melodies over sprawling compositions that unfurl very gradually through mountains of contemplative guitars or strings. Opening track ‘Miniature Habitats’ is a perfect example of this style, based around an addictively simple chord progression loop that layers dreamy guitars, vibraphone, and precise, laid-back drumming to produce a densely-packed locomotive machine.
Elsewhere, the band takes a somewhat more aggressive, mathy approach that calls to mind math-rock pioneers Don Caballero and A Minor Forest, as well as more contemporary math-aggressors like And So I Watch You From Afar. Tracks like ‘Scraping Skies’ deftly maneuver and cycle through tricky time signatures – 7/4, 10/4, and 6/4 by my count – without breaking a sweat. Though never breaking their cheerful and dreamy outer shell, the group isn’t afraid to flex their muscles either to produce headbangers like ’10th Graders Forever,’ ‘Snowed In,’ and closer ‘Ahs a Vahs a Vae,’ which pounds its climatic riff in heroic fashion.
What sticks out the most about Dream in Tongues is Arms of Tripoli’s knack for channeling so much frenetic energy and so many little musical gems and flourishes into such a tightly-composed package. They can weave all of these extra layers, melodies, and transitions in such a skillfully and calculated way without tipping their hand and making any of it feel forced or less than organic. Every musical inch of these tracks is packed, and the moments the band takes their foot off the gas and allows the music to breathe serve merely as opportunities to build it all up again. They’re certainly not the first to write music like this (see bands listed above), but it’s a tried-and-true formula that they’re doing exceedingly well.
If there is one drawback to the album though, it’s precisely in its musical lineage. You can spend a lot of time picking out little bits and pieces that remind you of other bands—the combination of bass and vibraphone groove that feels lifted straight out of Tortoise’s TNT or guitar noodling that would feel right at home in a Do Make Say Think song—that it starts to distract and detract from the music itself. It’s easy to see that the group of musicians collaborating in this enclave are bringing a diverse array of influences to the table, and hearing all of it combined makes for an engaging listen. But hopefully as the band continues to develop, the music they produce will form more of its own identity. Regardless, Dream in Tongues is absolutely worth a listen, and the positive, California-kissed energy flowing through it might be exactly the best prescription for the mid-winter doldrums many of us are mired in currently.
Arms of Tripoli’s Dream in Tongues gets…