He could have been describing Belgian trio Terraformer’s debut album, “The Sea Shaper”. It’s a constantly moving, ever-evolving thing which never settles on one idea for too long, choosing instead to move again and again. The sprawling, experimental song structures – such as they are – owe something to Mastodon, Russian Circles, Pelican and Cloudkicker. Multiple rhythm and tempo changes, clean and dirty tones, tapping and some wilfully unusual chords all go to make this record what it is: experimental, sometimes obtuse, but never dull. It ranges from heavy prog to post-rock to sludge and takes a whole heap of other influences in between. Lyrics don’t really feature, the band instead allowing the music to convey the message.
Starting with the slab-like chords of “Ahab”, it moves onto the complex rhythms and wild chords of “Nereid” (sea nymphs of Greek mythology). The structure here – as with all of Terraformer’s songs – is linear, as the band explores idea after idea and delivers continual change. Some of the passages are individually quite simple, but put together and they become increasingly complex.
As “Mers” begins it sounds almost ambient, with a restrained guitar tone, before building into something altogether heavier; and the ambient feel resurfaces in “Pieuvre Meduse” and “Trail of Lena”. The bass is melodic and not just a bottom end for the guitar, while the drums pound, ebb and flow like waves in the sea of the album title.
Tapping is used to good effect; done well it produces a texture to the playing unlike anything else, allowing a single instrument to produce layers of notes. “Cross Bearing” utilises the technique in its atmospheric, melodic introduction which then quickly becomes a chunky riff, followed by another tricky, math metal section. The sound is almost confusing in its complexity – even experienced ears will have to concentrate – but it will never be boring.
In summary then, if what you’re after are tight song structures, bubblegum melodies or riff-based music that lets you know exactly what to expect, Terraformer is not the band for you. But if you want 11 songs of such variation that by the end of the album you’ll feel almost dizzy, then you should give “The Sea Shaper” a listen.