No other group within the so-called "New Weird America" scene has covered so much stylistic ground as Tower Recordings. Much like the Holy Modal Rounders did 30 years before them, Tower has attempted to re-image and rework traditional folk ballads, seeing old standards through a modern, psychedelic lens. They have also tried, to varying degrees of success, a kind of chugging psych-stomp, free noise freak-outs, and almost straightforward indie rock, to name just a few of their other directions. This range, or lack of focus, depending on how you look at it, is both their strength and their weakness. It is no doubt a product of being a loose collective rather than a proper band, with members coming and going and participating in an endless web of other musical projects. With Folk Scene, Tower Recordings released a milestone album, and although it took a few years to be recognized as such, it came to define a genre. But it's almost more of a compilation than an album, rounding up many loose directions and ideas. And with an average song length of around two minutes, it lacks a certain depth. It is ambitious but distracted, wondering from one style to the next in a fit of giddy creative ecstasy. With The Galaxies' Incredibly Sensual Transmission Field of the Tower Recordings, the group rectify their lack of focus somewhat. The tracks are longer, and the overall album length is much shorter: six songs in a little over 30 minutes. By virtue of that alone, the album feels like the work of a unified band, and it stands as their most concise and cohesive work to date. Even so, Galaxies' is still a pretty diverse affair. "Harvester" sounds like Sonic Youth and Pink Floyd in a dream jam session: a saucer-full of chiming guitars and tribal drumming, with a swirling broth of feedback holding it together. De facto leader Matt Valentine reinterprets "Going up the Country" as a bluesy raga tinged with bells and handclaps on "Empress of I-91." Elsewhere, such as on "Giggy Garbage Gods" and "Forum" a light, hazy psychedelic vibe prevails, and the closer, "Other Kinds Run," sounds like a lost Spaceman 3 gem. The music here was recorded around the same time as the material used for Folk Scene, and in the intervening years the group obviously developed a clearer sense of itself. When they decided to go back to the tapes for these sessions and assemble this album, they had a better idea of who they were and what they wanted to sound like. So, although Folk Scene was an impressive clarion call that announced them as a major force in the American psychedelic scene, Galaxies' is perhaps a better place to start exploring the music of Tower Recordings. Their wandering spirit can be both intriguing and frustrating, but Galaxies' offers compact and concise primer.
The Galaxies' Incredibly Sensual Transmission Field of... Review
by Jason Nickey