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TENGGER - Nomad Music Album Reviews

The latest album from the meditative duo is an impressionistic portrait of life spent in transit.

When the Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō began the journey he would immortalize in The Narrow Road to the Deep North, he carried only a paper coat, a bathrobe, rain gear, pen and paper, and a few mementos. TENGGER makes their trip with little more than a synth and a pump organ. Like Bashō’s landmark work of travel writing, the Japanese-South Korean couple’s second album for Brooklyn psych label Beyond Beyond Is Beyond, Nomad, is an impressionistic portrait of life spent in transit. Even when they linger to take in the view, the six songs here are largely formed around the idea of movement as a virtue in and of itself. They unfold with the logic of linked haiku; the individual sounds—gently arpeggiating analog synthesizers, droning harmonium, processed field recordings, the occasional tick of percussion—aren’t necessarily interesting in themselves, but by arranging them into elegant relationships with one another, TENGGER imbue them with a sense of rustic majesty.
TENGGER’s music often lacks rough edges and internal tension, which forces them to find less obvious ways of generating movement, something they do successfully across the album. They take cues from Neu! and Aguirre-era Popol Vuh, creating distinct floating worlds bonded by singer itta’s featherlight vocals and drawing them into one another with graceful precision. Throughout, field recordings of rushing and trickling water and, in “Eurasia,” what sounds like the distant sound of train tracks, introduce notes of motion and unpredictability into their hermetically sealed micro-environments.

But what makes Nomad instantly compelling is the way it both reflects and celebrates the feeling of a peaceful morning walk. Both “Bliss” and opener “Achime” set off with two-chord shuffles, shifting from one to the other at a steady hiker’s clip. In “Achime,” the chords land with a muffled crunch that evokes footfalls, while an organ swells to fill every available groove. itta recently said the group’s aim is to “make music that connects with the sounds of nature and the spirituality of making the music within that moment.” Accordingly, every note is given space and allowed to find its place in the greater whole. itta and synthesist Marqido’s roles almost seem to lie more in guiding the sounds than in producing them; their steady hands and faith in their own sense of timing make Nomad feel intensely personal.

itta and Marquido’s skills—their horticultural attention to detail and patience with their own material—are best-suited to moving at a walker’s pace. Like all good pilgrims, they know the true blessing lies in the journey itself, but that doesn’t stop them from pushing Nomad to a glorious destination. Closer “Flow” is goosed by a thick drone that gives the couple a rare counterforce, something to react to. They move together in ecstatic union, radiating sounds that they shape until they’re all resonating together on a single chord, everything tuned to the same pitch. And when the water once again comes streaming in near the album’s end, it’s clear and bright, fed by the deep wells of feeling TENGGER have drawn from the natural world.

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