Crazed math-rock from a Boston trio evokes everyone from the Fall to the Dismemberment Plan to Superchunk. Tristan da Cunha plays an angular festival of forced-march riffs, tromping up and down terrain that changes with every measure. They build a psychotic, strobe-lighted disco where dancers fall to the ground in exhausted frenzy after trying to dance to misshapen but insistent beats. They can't help but bust stuff up, even in the slower songs, but they're using space-age radar guns, not brute force, to wreak havoc.
Most of the tracks pit the vocalist's mad spoken-word rants over the fractalized anarchy of guitar, drums and bass. Cuts like "Jesus Marches with a Little Spider" and "Too Many Boats" have a disturbing internal logic that doesn't quite map to the real world. It's a little like Mark E. Smith might sound if he hired Superchunk for a backing band and told them to put one to three extra beats in every measure.
The best tracks -- standouts include "Song Number Three", "Little White Sneakers" and "Narcosynthesis" -- are the more melodic ones, blending occasionally-syrupy harmonies with the bracing acerbity of off-balance drums and odd lyrics. "Little White Sneakers", for instance, contains an extended section where the singer repeatings the phrase "I'll push you off the mat", which makes it a song about either wrestling or some kind of weird sexual ritual -- or maybe, god help us, a little of both. Similarly, "Re: Maeve (Everybody Knows)", despite its quiet, fairly lyric opening, soon degenerates (or blossoms, depending on how you look at things) into a fast rant of "Everybody knows / The French make the best music / Everybody knows / The Swiss make the best chocolate..." The whole thing is bizarrely compelling, because the singer barks out these lines like they are crucial information, the kind of thing we will run into real trouble without knowing.
This is dance music from a parallel universe. This is poetry fresh out of an insane asylum. This is rock and roll filtered through a prism into extraterrestrial rainbows. This is not a test. This is Tristan da Cunha.
-- Jennifer Kelly, Splendid E-Zine