Majestic, Sweepingly Cinematic Instrumentals from Arms of Tripoli

by delarue

Los Angeles instrumentalists Arms of Tripoli play exuberant, anthemic, frequently cinematic postrock, a swirling, pouncing, enveloping, propulsively percussive mix of guitars, bass, drums and keys. No verse or chorus is ever exactly the same. The music takes on majesty and grandeur as it goes on, with unexpected dynamic shifts that peak out and then hit quieter interludes. Guitarists Jaime Galvez, Michael Bouvet and Robert Bauwens, keyboardist K.C. Maloney, bassist Vic Lazar and drummer George Tseng don’t waste your time with lyrics, they just hit you with the hooks, one after another. More bands should be doing this. Their latest album Dream in Tongues is streaming at their Bandcamp page.

The opening track, Miniature Habitats, opens with an insistent guitar figure over resonant chords, shifts tempos back and forth as the drums kick in and then out, echoing Aussie art-rock legends the Church but with the faux-vintage keyboard voicings that are all the rage in indie circles. Then hits a long, hypnotic vamp and pretty much stays there. All this in just six minutes and thirty seconds: it gives you a good idea of what’s coming.

Velcro Thunder Fuck balances variations on a countryish guitar lick with layers of tinkling keys over a galloping rhythm as the bass shifs around, tremolopicked Mogwai-ish guitar giving way to a more echoey, dreampop-tinged chorus, then back up to the galloping theme. Scraping Skies shifts through even trickier tempos, anthemic guitar countermelodies rising over a midtempo sway, adding layer after layer of guitars and twinkling keys in the background.

Escalator Jazz turns out to be really cool. You think from the circular hook that opens it that it’s going to be a dorky mathrock song, but it comes together mightily on the chorus and from there it’s a big, majestic, atmospheric 6/8 anthem. The band works that same trick a little later with 10th Graders Forever, the most dreampop-flavored track here, and Canna, which eventually winds down to an unselfconsciously pretty art-rock lullaby of sorts.

Snowed In, with its allusions to surf music and spacious chords over nonchalantly galloping drums, is the most ominous of the tracks. Addendum begins with a country guitar lick and then builds to a spacerock theme with layers of distorted, ringing and echoing guitars – while it’s the most metal-ish and dynamically charged track here, it’s far from buffoonish. The final track is one of the simplest and most memorable melodies, a big ELO-ish anthem blended into an opaque, dreampop/postrock background, lush ambience contrasting with guitar snarl and bite.