Walls of twinkling guitar sounds and pure analog oscillators, moments of lamentation, moments of euphoria, plinking ukeleles and doot-ing Nintendos, an occasional freakout/lonely violin. The debut album from Seattle band Terrene, recorded by famed procuder Phil Ek (Built to Spill, Fleet Foxes, The Shins) showcases a band trying many textures and flavors to paint a beautiful portrait of frontman and songwriter John Dylan's youthful loneliness and hopeful yearning for meaningful connection. The album artwork, a beautifully-hued watercolor depicting a lone satellite dish searching for something out there in the twilight sky, communicates it all, in a way: music of a chiming, celestial grandeur, and a nostalgic innocence that wishes to know. In promotional copies of the album, this quote from the film Crimes and Misdemeanors adorned the inner liner notes: " Life unfolds so unpredictably, so unfairly, human happiness does not appear to be included in the design of creation. It is only we, with our ability to love, that give meaning to the indifferent universe. " The existential concern that follows loneliness seems to be on Dylan's mind on this record, with most songs dwelling on the theme, albeit with a quirky and hopeful voice reminiscent of other awkward stargazers such as The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne (who, like Dylan, hails from Oklahoma) or Daniel Johnston. Awkward or no, though, the production shimmers, thanks to seminal knob-twiddler Phil Ek, who recorded and mixed Terrene's record at indierock mecca-cum-studio Avast! The expansive sounds of Terrene's wall-of-sound approach fill the headroom completely, and delightfully. A great first step for a band that appears to have come out of the womb fully formed.
An exquisite work of art... The word "terrene" may mean "of or relating to the earth" but Terrene, the band, sounds anything but earthly. The echoic guitars chime beautifully with soaring harmonies whirling in from all directions, and every sound is obscured lightly by a lucid haze of reverb... Attempts to pigeonhole or compare Terrene's sound with established genres and artists usually result only in Frankensteinian conglomerations of eclectic bands -- a tooth of Sonic Youth, a couple toes of Sigur Ros, a Flaming Lip, maybe a few Blonde Redhead hairs sticking out somewhere, etc. -- but these stitched generalizations do no justice... "Fifty-One" is catchy as hell, and it showcases Terrene's strong points of good songwriting, aural expansion, and instrumental harmonies right off the bat. The 8-bit video game sounds and keyboard-led melodies of "Unwelcome" are giddy, danceable, and just plain fun to listen to. "The Spirits On The Shelf" is breathtakingly moving, with a backdrop of soft mandolins and violins keeping the emotions aloft. "Media Sift (Through Heart Rises)" begins with a simultaneous crash of instrumentation, layered with high-tempo rhythms and low-tempo chord progressions over which Dylan's resonant vocals and nostalgic lyrics are stretched. After what seems to be a verse, the song leaps into what seems to be a chorus, but before long it becomes apparent that there is no sense turning back. Every few measures the song grows an increment, the melodies expand to make way for more melodies, and the sphere of harmonies augments. Finally, once it reaches its own apex, Dylan concludes the lyrics with the line "Each wake leaves every dream unsure, to media sifts and nothing more" and the song vaults into a final hurrah before exploding into a hushed fallout of dissipating guitar plucks. The most notable characteristic of this song is how naturally it abandons the standard verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure in favor of a linearized, progressive structure. In this sense, it never retrogresses or becomes redundant, even as some elements of the percussion, guitar harmonies, and vocal lines remain consistent throughout. Terrene's music is at its best when the listeners can look up at the panorama of the night's sky and feel that the music they are listening to is as mystical and expansive as the heavens above them. Terrene is a promising star, and one to watch for. If they can continue to grow, today's red dwarf might be tomorrow's supergiant. --Three Imaginary Girls
Free-forming, melodious songs that feel as if they're barely planted on Terra-firma...They have something going on unique unto themselves... --Lost at Sea
If only a band existed that distilled the best bits from the Shins, The Apples in Stereo and Built to Spill and in the process arrived at a perfect sonic constellation. Well, Terrene s new album may just have arrived at this superlative juncture. --mp3hugger