Okay. I probably don’t need to introduce you to TCB (If you’d like a proper introduction, may I recommend this beautiful compilation album?). All you really need to know is that this artist is one of the foremost practitioners of sound design in the fandom, that no one gets more out of a vocal chop than they do, and that emotional and psychological subject matter is their forte. Now they have given us a whole album of finely calibrated tracks, the product of 10 years of pushing boundaries and redefining sonic excellence. Your musical mind is in the hands of a master, so find a quiet place, break out the good headphones, sit down, strap in, and do your best to absorb everything that is about to come your way. It’s going to be a heck of a ride.
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“MY PRIDE IS NONEXISTENT” is a short track, but it does a lot of work over a minute and a half and sets the table nicely for the rest of this musical feast. We open with a little snare beat and single key note and then begin drifting along on soft, panning ambience, gentle keys, and mesmerizing effects. The melody then kicks in half a minute in, emotional horns are added, and juuuuuust the right amount of bass backs the arrangement. It’s like easing into a river only to find out that there’s a waterfall right downstream, and now it’s too late to get to shore. Stirring strings make a quick, emphatic visit before the track quiets, setting the listener up for the finale, where percussion and distorted synths and a cymbal flourish welcome us to “MY HOPE, ONLY AS REAL AS MY THOUGHTS”. Here the listener gets a taste of TCB’s vocal chop mastery as glitchy, distorted samples help build the melody. There’s an impressive pool of sound to wade through already before traditional instrumentation and targeted drum beats begin their impactful interjections. And then the wubs hit, and it’s just otherworldly how they combine with the melody and amazing bass to simultaneously test the upper and lower frequencies of your listening device in a skittery, scratchy, echoey, pulsing arrangementthat feels targeted toward some primordial part of the brain, and it hits in a way that music normally doesn’t. The percussion Then the rock arrangement kicks in full of distorted guitar goodness and excellent drums paired with the unsettling melody and synths from earlier. The song then morphs back into its electronic arrangement on the other side of the vocal chop (I still can’t figure out how to feel about the “You can stay with me | you can stay forever” vocal), emerging from the depths like a leviathan, eventually adding in a guitar melody. The arrangement and chops dissolve at the end as a bit of ambience heralds the pulsing, ambient opening of “*I’VE BEEN LEFT BEHIND, I MADE SURE OF IT”. The listener is led to an epic, filmic passage that then morphs into melodic dub bliss as TCB creates an intense arrangement of synths, bass, and effects with little bits of vocals sprinkled in, voices from beyond the glitchy maelstrom. There’s a hint of acoustic guitar after the small ambient break, and then the processed chops add to the story backed by an electronic arrangement that is very balanced and engaging. The song closes with little ambient flourishes and a bit of flute before “FEAR HAS ENTOMBED ME” begins with plucky orchestral instrumentation combining with the ambience. Some chops from “The Magic Inside of You” are added, coming more forward with the electric guitar. The arrangement falls off, the track goes silent, and then the song explodes into glitchy, pulsing, melodic bliss. The quieter passage that follows gives the listener a chance to appreciate how much work is being done with panning and modulating all of the bits of this song, and the depth that all of this detail creates helps build a beautiful space. There’s some nice key and synth melodic interplay before the song comes to a close. “REGRET AND ANGER, DRIED ME OUT” opens quietly with ethereal ambience, keys, and string flourishes setting up the melody with vocal chops slipping in before the drum and bass percussion begins complimented by saxophone. The saxophone then morphs into the chop, and strings take over, layering in beautiful emotional depth. And then everything “dries out” and a skittery ambient effect heralds a passage full of ambient, echoey chops and synths. It has an industrial quality to it that then gets hijacked by dubstep for a relatively brief passage before everything just sort of fades disquietingly away. Cymbals open “—“, which buzzes with ambient energy carried by subtle but dynamic bass and punctuated by notes from a music box melody, light percussion, and bits of distorted vocals. It’s a good interlude before “*CONGRATS, YOU WERE TOO LATE” opens with snippets of sounds, dreamy vocals mixing with flutes and bits of ambience backed by that wondrous bass. Drum beats and then steady percussion give the arrangement an epic feeling enhanced by straining strings before the arrangement cuts out. The next explosion of synths is almost harsh, going far enough to elicit its intended emotion, before cutting out itself. Then the track jumps back to life, vocal chops and effects piecing together a melody that hammers repeatedly at your psyche through breathtaking sound design. Another break, and then a spoken sample of poetry dissolves in a pool of synths, eventually frayed to disrepair by modulation. A final break is followed by a last siren of sound, a final rattle before the stillness. Why does this moment, and the whole journey through this music, hit the way that it does? I couldn’t tell you, but I have enjoyed every moment of this marvelous musical mechanation. I hope that you have as well.