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A meridian is defined as the highest point, as of development or power within a given body. Suffice to say the latest album of entrancing, beyond-damaged psych-drone by Tribes of Neurot is aptly titled. The experimental soundscape sibling outfit to Neurosis taps into a new era of innovative psychedelia with propulsive, throbbing and looping drones as it forays ever further into territories uncharted and unfettered by the multiple genres the band encompasses.
Whereas many of Tribes of Neurot’s previous projects have been based upon specific thematic concepts and experiments, Meridian is a return to the group’s ambient/noise origins that escapes the boundaries of such pre-determined rules. The 10-track, 42-minute album creates a swirling miasma reminiscent of such diverse sound manipulators as Skullflower, Black Dice, Flying Saucer Attack and Labradford.
Its tones lope from the sub-harmonic hum and chiming, gamelan-type sounds of album opener “Displaced” to the wildly phasing tremolo and fried-amplifier sizzle of “Searing.” At times, its sounds become downright nightmarish, as in the heavily-distorted sounds of waves that explode like strafing bombs on “Sub Aqua.” Other times, tracks like “Wave Upon Wave” touch upon a strange meeting place between Wendy Carlos’ neo-futurist analog synths and the electronic terrorism of Whitehouse. Throughout, Meridian is like a hallucinogenic trip that synergizes the noises from within our bodies with the peaking, cascading waves of the world that surrounds us.
The group has been responsible for several innovative and inspired projects that incorporate not just the impressive multimedia onslaught of Neurosis and Tribes of Neurot, but installations and “private performances” (wherein the listener is instrumental in re-creating and reshaping the nature of the group’s sound) that experiment with the philosophy and semiotics of how we interpret audio. Tribes of Neurot’s 1999 album Grace was released as a companion piece to the Neurosis album Times of Grace, and was designed for listeners to play the two albums at the same time, but not necessarily in-sync. The results were like a far better realized version of the Flaming Lips’ 4-disc Zaireeka effort. The double disc Adaptation and Survival: The Insect Project (2002) arrived as a furthermore clever experiment that harnessed the group’s esoteric thinking with a concept crossing John Cage’s musical explorations with Stan Brakhage’s bug-smashing film work. The group's members compiled insect noises, then distorting, synthesizing, and manipulating the recordings into freakish, buzzing noisescapes devoid of humans-playing-instruments. The result is a bizarre illustration of actual living things as instruments – from which listeners could also re-mix and simultaneously play tracks and subsequently revise the project altogether. Tribes of Neurot’s A Resonant Sun project (available on the Neurosis DVD A Sun That Never Sets) is an innovative experiment modeled after an Alvin Lucier piece, in which the sounds of a recording are played in a room and subsequently re-recorded several times to distill the sound to it’s finest harmonic resonance. Tribes recorded the Neurosis album A Sun That Never Sets being played on a stereo in a room, then re-played and re-recorded each subsequent repetition to stunning results that can be heard in progress track by track.
For Meridian, Tribes of Neurot takes that sonic reinterpretation of music and audience and elevates it to its highest point – similar to the way that meridians are mapped out to subdivide the latitude and longitude of the earth as well as locate nerve center pathways of the human body. The sounds borne of natural environments – both micro and macroscopic -- are mutated by chance, by design and by our own creations run amok. Does all that sound heady and complex? Certainly.
Does it also sound much more compelling and interesting than simply slapping the latest hipster rock combo’s disc in the stereo? …We thought so too.