A little over three years ago ‘alt rock’ four-piece Tantale released The Known Elements, their debut album, with much fanfare, including a packed gig at The Fermain Tavern that was one of the highlight shows of that year following their victory in a local battle of the bands.
Now, at the tail end of 2015, album number two has landed into a very different musical landscape that has seen Tantale almost fall by the wayside as the likes of Buffalo Huddleston, The Recks and others have become the island’s highlight bands.
With that in mind Tantale took the interesting step of releasing Just Add Vice in more modest fashion with a series of smaller gigs (as close to a tour as is possible in Guernsey) to promote the album but, on listening to the record, the band have no need of modesty.
Across the 12 tracks Steve, Louis, Matt and Graham come across as far more confident in their music as, rather than trying to fit a particular style, they let their own identity comes across much more strongly, giving a varied sound that ends up being distinctively Tantale. Across the album there are (known?) elements of grunge, indie, prog and vaguely psychedelic notes that combine to make something at once familiar but still interesting and far from derivative.
Steve Wickins’ easily recognisable vocals, and occasionally seemingly nonsense but atmospheric lyrics, give the whole thing a cohesive nature, while he and Louis Le Couteur use their guitars to create fuzzy, at times drone-y, reverb drenched soundscapes.
Under this Matt Smart and Graham Duerden create a deeply textured rhythm with Graham’s drums and percussion in particular standing out in their diversity – where else will you hear a device allegedly made from llama’s toenails on record!?
If you want a sample of what Tantale offer here in microcosm you could do far worse than having a listen to the double-header of Go To Get Gone and The Question, Just Add Vice’s second and third tracks, that demonstrate everything the band do well in two rather different ways. Go To Get Gone is a short blasting rocker of a track while The Question offers an expansive aural soundscape that builds from an acoustic opening to fuzz and reverb laden richness and back again.
Along with all of the this Tantale also display their own off beat sense of humour too, at least I assume that’s what it is, on the potential thoughtful but almost Pythonesquely surreal Ode To Swedish and the more obviously funny <You’re An Ass>.
While there are points where I found myself zoning out in the middle of the album, even here the nature of the music made it an excellent soundscape like affair.
As a whole Just Add Vice is as unique an album as you’d expect from a band as diverse in composition as Tantale and shows a real growth and return to form for a band who, for a few years, seemed to have lost their way.