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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Top 10 Albums of 2008: #2

Teargas & Plateglass
Black Triage

Just shy of the top spot this year (and really, just a fraction shy, because it was quite a battle for me to decide) is Teargas & Plateglass, one of the worst named bands in the entire world, with their second album, Black Triage. Despite their miserable name choice, this electronic artist collective that supposedly hails from Western Sahara (though I'm of the opinion that that, like every single other aspect of the album, is a political statement and not actually the truth), have produced an album this year--the only album this year--that made me re-think what music can do.

Like I said, every aspect of the album, from its artwork to the quote by American documentary-filmmaker Godfrey Reggio, to the very sounds emanating from the speakers and their sadly unfortunate name, are ominiously political. It is, as is evidenced in Reggio's quote and by T&G's myspace, an album about genocide, and that is exactly what it sounds like. I don't mean that there are bangs of gunshots or the hiss of gas chambers--there aren't even lyrics for the theme to lean on, just a few spoken word interludes. The music carries it all on its own, creating an atmosphere nothing short of fright. Listening to the album all the way through is almost a chore, an emotionally sapping ordeal on par with reading Paul Auster's Leviathan. The first time I listened to it, I described the experience to someone else as "watching someone being shot in the face in extremely slow-motion." And that description remains the same. The marching of boots, the suffocating darkness of hiding, the hair-on-end tense feeling that washes through you as you listen to the hammering electronic beats all push you into a state of agitation, a fearfulness almost.

I've listened to music since I was a little kid, I've played it in bands and orchestras, written it and studied it and analyzed it, but never before in my life have I heard something so visceral, so supremely affecting as Black Triage. That said, you probably won't like it. Not that I don't think you (whoever you are), have sophisticated enough taste or anything like that, it's just a difficult album. If you don't like electronica, you're automatically out, but even if you do, it's still going to be a tough sell. I like it because of what it represents; the idea that music is not just music--it can be a political statement, an art piece, just an experimentation for the sake of experimentation. It's obviously not the first experimental piece I've listened to in my life (in fact, I'm a total sucker for it, as you'd know if you've ever listened to my old radio show from which my blog gets its name), but it does go down as one of the most conceptualized, most fleshed out, and ultimately, one of the best.

And the second best album of them all this year.

Teargas & Plateglass - Plague Burial

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