Tarwater: “Inside The Ships”

The press release that comes with Tarwater’s “Inside The Ships” reveals that this is the duo’s 11th album – a slightly alarming number, which suggests I’ve rather lost touch with the band over the past few years. “Inside The Ships”, however, has an instantly and satisfyingly familiar sound, not too different from Tarwater in 1998, when their “Silur” album seemed to be part of a small glut of German records (by The Notwist, To Rococo Rot, Kreidler, Mouse On Mars, Pluramon and so on) that sat in an appealing space halfway between electronica and post-rock.

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The press release that comes with Tarwater’s “Inside The Ships” reveals that this is the duo’s 11th album – a slightly alarming number, which suggests I’ve rather lost touch with the band over the past few years. “Inside The Ships”, however, has an instantly and satisfyingly familiar sound, not too different from Tarwater in 1998, when their “Silur” album seemed to be part of a small glut of German records (by The Notwist, To Rococo Rot, Kreidler, Mouse On Mars, Pluramon and so on) that sat in an appealing space halfway between electronica and post-rock.



At the time, I think I used to write a lot, portentously, about a new wave of Krautrock. Now, though, with Tarwater on Bureau B – the label which seems to find a bunch of Cluster-related albums to reissue most months, and which provides a good context – the Krautrock tag seems pretty off-beam.

What Ronald Lippok and Bernd Jestram do share with at least some of their German predecessors is a distinctly cerebral approach to their music, not least in their frequent use of found texts as lyrics. On “Inside The Ships”, words are taken from a DAF song, a Baudelaire poem and, on “Do The Oz”, a comparatively obscure Lennon track, thoroughly recontextualised here thanks in no small part to Lippok’s absurdist deadpan.

It’d be easy to stereotype Tarwater, consequently, as chill theoreticians, but the delicate layering and cumulative atmospheres are much more compelling than such a reductive description might suggest. At best, Tarwater are a meticulously textural band, where it’s often hard to delineate what is programmed, sampled or live. Jazz horns, of uncertain provenance, punctuate a few of the tracks here, but they never detract from the calm-eyed insistency that remains the band’s fine default.

That’s apparent, at its most evolved, on the superb title track, a ticking, humming, twanging interzone where some kind of middle-eastern drone pipe cuts a swathe through the mix, and Lippok’s sullen intonations seem to allude to a selection of unlikely dance crazes: “Do the quicksand… Do the chocolate phone” and so on. It’s right up there with my old favourite Tarwater song, “The Watersample”. Check out “Inside The Ships” here; I’d be interested to know what you think.

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