Ticonderoga - Ticonderoga

Year of Release: 2005
Label: 54?40' Or Fight!
Catalog Number: Polk024 CD
Format: CD
Total Time: 39:24:00

While its progressive pedigree might be questioned -- it's billed as post-rock -- like some of the more experimental progressive musics heard today, there is a sense of artiness about Ticonderoga's self-titled debut. Oh, I'm not making the argument that they are Progressive, but I'd say ... progressive- minded in a non-progressive rock way (which is, I suppose, what post-rock is all about). But, if Dave Matthews Band were influenced by King Crimson (a tweesny bit) and Porcupine Tree (marginally so) then this is what would be the results - if all we had to go on was "The Space Between" and "Stop Swimming" (though not quite as eloquent as either).

Ticonderoga is a trio from Raliegh, North Carolina, though they originally hail from Iowa. This is an important thing to keep in mind, and I'll tell you why shortly.

Arrangements seem on the verge of shattering, their sparseness revealing a certain fragility that is hidden by demonstrative, unadorned drums and percussion (Phil Moore and Mark Paulson), and a certain resoluteness in the vocals (Moore). If your particular prog tastes run towards meatier sounds and arrangements, then you will find this to be a bit wimpy...

Along with being sparse - stripped down in a way, though you will find places with a filling swell of keys (Wes Phillips) on "Over The Hill," for example -- here you will find twangy, strummed guitars, credited to all three. In fact, all three are instrumentalists - Moore also plays bass and clarinet; Paulson including organ and violin to his repertoire; and Phillips playing accordion and contrabass; all contribute voice.

This is perhaps too moody and sparse, and not something to listen to if you're in any way depressed. There are no "bright" moments, no point where you feel whatever heavy weight is weighing down this trio is being lifted. There are no "solos" though there are places where a certain instrument has the focus... Everything is downtuned and played at a sludgy, slow pace. It's probably good then that the pieces themselves are short.

Now, here's why I think their Iowa roots are important to mention - it explains the big, twangy guitars; the roots-rock feel that underlies these pieces, the feeling of a small-town man lost in the cold, harsh "big city." But this isn't country, isn't root-rock, doesn'tt any of that Americana that I hear in Echolyn, for example. Which kind of puts this band in some rock netherworld ... post rock, I guess. Which, in a way, pushes it beyond the boundaries of rock... there are jazzy textures here, without it sounding particularly jazzy. That comes more in the interplay between the instruments, the way things are played off against and with each other. And it's in that instrumentation that these pieces take shape... -- the long view being that these all sound the same. Well, they sure are able to set and keep a mood for 11 tracks. The most energy to be found here comes in the album's closer, "High Score," where a brief, but urgent violin plays heart-beat quick duo of notes back and forth.

"Over The Hill" feels a bit warped, and off-kilter... The disc opens with the ambient '" "' (that's two quotation marks separated by a space) - sustained notes, including clarinet, hum and hover, disturbed only by industrial sounding percussion that leads us into the twangiest of the album's pieces, "Northshore." It is, perhaps, the most lively piece here excepting "High Score." Violin - maybe it is a keyboard - makes a pretty and warm noise on "Kim & Kelly," a piece that later features soft keyboard textures and some throaty and intricate bass lines, later joined by shimmery, twang-tinged guitar. "Locked In The Back Freezer" glides in easily over percussion and a musing guitar. Getting cutsie, "Drunkmare" starts a backwards count from 69:10, but only lasts a little over three minutes (it seems longer ... too long, or is that just 'cuz I was watching the counter?)... and really, it's just as easy to say we get a lot of the same with minor variations...

It is not a bad release, the instrumentation and interplay bringing it above average, but it is not great... It falls into my, "it's okay, but..." category, perhaps relegating it to storage and gathering dust... as I hope I don't find myself in this dark a mood.


Phil Moore - guitar, vocals, drums, bass, clarinet
Mark Paulson - guitar, organ, voice, drums, violin
Wes Phillips - guitar, drums, voice, accordion, keyboards, contrabass

Ticonderoga (2005)
The Hellig-Levine LP (2005)

Genre: Rock

Origin US

Added: February 5th 2006
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.ticonderobics.com
Hits: 815
Language: english


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