Sunday, August 12, 2007

Terraced Garden- Melody and Menace,LP,1982,Canada

Terraced Garden began in early '81 as a solo project by Toronto-born multi-instrumentalist/composer Carl Tafel. Prior to this, he was one third of a band called Cardboard Brains, for whom he played bass and sang, a "demonically heavy" outfit, by Tafel's own admission, that was "too far outside for any broad acceptance." He left the band in order to concentrate on writing, playing guitar and keyboards, and developing a more expanded sound.
The first recordings began in 1981, but the money quickly ran out. A year later, Tafel went back into the studio, and with the help of some other musicians, finished the recordings for the first album by the end of 1982, and it was finally released in January '83.
A powerful debut, Melody & Menace succeeds in grafting the expletives and dynamics of the progressive rock idiom into the short song format without stooping to commercialism or ascending to the pretentiousness that so many prog bands fall into. Not a small feat by any measure; Terraced Garden's music is honest, and doesn't seek comparison. Of course, the driving force is Tafel's compositions, which seem to fall into two categories. The first is an acoustic guitar driven rock of varying intensity, generally fronted by brilliant (and I must say unique) multi-part harmonies, excellent lyrics, and supported by keys, flutes, Mellotron, violin, more guitars, and a rhythm section that backs the effort well. It's that combination of harmonies and violin that more than occasionally reminds me of the late-60's edition of It's A Beautiful Day. Tracks like "Black Tie" and "Old Friends" are examples of this style, but perhaps the finest example on the album is "Passages".
The other side of TG is an edgy, electric guitar based rock - a swirling cauldron of chaotic and understated melodies, backed up by a strong rhythmic presence, perhaps residing somewhere along the axis between mid-70's Crimson, and (if there were such a thing) progressive punk - typified by tracks like "Threnody", "Coventry", and "Noise and Haste", all of which are completely instrumental. Indeed, Tafel's soloing may at times remind of Fripp, with his penchant for infinite sustain and disonnance.
"I always felt that was the way my personality was as an individual, and certainly as a writer", explains Tafel. "There were always two sides - the more melodic side that was pretty and nice to listen to, and another one that was more sinister and menacing. I always thought they were both fairly valid, and I certainly felt both of them, but playing live I think the menacing side would come out a little more." On "Creature of Habit", the two extremes of the Terraced Garden 'sound' are pulled together and blended, which in fact points in the direction they would travel on later releases.
Tafel notes of drummer Peter Weeks: "I'd worked with him in a previous band and he was a great drummer. What I didn't realize when I asked him to drum on the album is that he was in the process of selling his kit! He certainly drummed well, but he could have drummed a lot better had circumstances been different. To his credit, he didn't really have a chance to become familiar with the songs, and he did a very credible job with them considering that I didn't even know what direction I wanted them to go. Some of his tracks are just very basic [click tracks] so that I could finish the rest of my parts - I guess "Dry Leaves in the Wind" was one of those. I think if we'd had more time, and certainly if we'd had more money, we could have worked a few things out better to his credit. There was a killer track he did for "Threnody", but there was something screwed up with the miking - but man, if you could've heard that, it was amazing! And he didn't have a kit, we had this crummy rental kit, that was frustrating. But I couldn't have done that first album without him."
Of drummer Phil Dewhurst: "'Noise and Haste' was kind of an afterthought for the first album because I'd run out of money, and so a year later I went back in and wanted to record it. There was another song called 'Barren Ground', it was a good song, long and complicated, about eight minutes. But I didn't think I could do it justice [given the budget I had]. So I felt 'Noise and Haste' was a better song. I liked Phil's drumming - I'd heard him with some other bands, and he did a great job especially considering that he really hadn't rehearsed with me live before going in to record it."
After the release of the album, Tafel put together the first live version of the band, which featured Darrell Flint on bass (ex-Cardboard Brains), Scott Weber on drums, and Jody Mitchell on guitar, with Tafel on guitar, keyboards, and vocals. "The album came out around Christmas, and I put a band together in January because I had to. There was really no other reason to get a band going" he recalls. "I used to gig to tapes. I'd mix tracks out from the studio and I would play those tracks live. I used to bring a bass on a stand and a guitar on a stand, and switch from one to the other, and sing harmonies sometimes. It got kind of ridiculous after a while, and there's only so far you can go with it. I needed to put a live band together. If you're going to put out an album, you may as well try to support it. I'd known Darrell for some time. He had played with Cardboard Brains, but he played with a different version of the band after I left. Scott was a friend of his. Jody Mitchell was a guy I knew, he was a guitar player. I was still mainly playing guitar, but I was doubling on keyboards and singing. I just kind of got the guys together and taught them all the parts."
They worked a few months as a four piece, but then added Simon Jacobs on violin who had played on the album, allowing them to offer more faithful renditions of the album material. "Simon was available. I'd met him at a party while I was in the process of recording the first album. He came in and played some parts, he was a very good player. At first we thought we would just use him for a couple of 'showcase gigs', but things seemed to work out and he became a permanent member."
During their shows, they would switch instruments regularly. Jacobs was proficient on both violin and keyboards, Mitchell on guitar and keyboards, and Flint and Tafel could both handle guitar, bass and keyboards. "I think the people in the audience found that unusual, and appreciated us more for it". At the start things weren't easy. They played the worst possible nights at the worst clubs, but over time they started building a following, and before long it was better nights at better venues.
Note that this was posted ,allomg with the other 2 Terraced Garden LPs,a few months ago by Mystery Poster blog,but links seems to be dead.

so get it here

1 comment:

Mystery Poster said...

The 2nd, "Braille," and 3rd album, "Within," are now available again at:
Le Mystere