a review of “winter in tumultua”

A Review of
Winter in Tumultua,
an album by city of the asleep
(Igliashon Jones).


This is an extremely powerful concept album that transcends the label “xenharmonic” because the tuning no longer matters. What has resulted is contemporary art that conveys the balance of desperate perseverance in the bitter piece of tortured nature that is called “Oakland California”.

    Track 1:

eight people
The opening track is electronic ambiance with a computer generated voice that graphically describes the experience of Tumultua. The music fulfills its function to be the cup for the desperate prose but if you can take your attention from the message you find a carefully crafted piece of music that serves also as an introduction to the next track.

    Track 2:

trucks from the sea
This track I think could be called alternative. It characteristically uses dissonance in response to the call of consonance in a number of different chord progressions. Though almost exclusively a guitar track, the use of effects provides a nice variation in texture.

    Track 3:

this was all a mistake
Psychedelic reverse swells accent powerful piano stabs to open this piece. Midway a distorted sound (I’m assuming guitar) starts to play off the piano. There is a sense of something large and isolated in the music. A restless power that meanders towards a home that turns into a distorted broken electronic device that fades as its power wanes with one final grasp.

    Track 4:

Acoustic guitar glitch is an apt description of the opening which turns into a catchy pop song at the behest of a crack of snare hits. This piece is an unusual melding of western and decidedly eastern influences. Easily a radio-ready track.

    Track 5:

legacy of an abandoned liquor store
A sense of something with many legs that can’t quite walk straight – like a drunken homeless arachnoid man that sleeps under the expressway overpass covered with last week’s Sunday paper. Once started the track evolves into a synthesizer part that demonstrates some nice voice leading in a captivating chord progression. The surrounding drums, glitch, and leads help to lend a feeling of poignant majesty that is ultimately defeated by neglect.

    Track 6:

rake the clouds
Via vocoder a description of the potential power that desperation builds in colorful prose which is mirrored in the development of the music. This piece is all about the narrative – listen closely and hear how the disenfranchised will finally find itself.

    Track 7:

electronic mice in the walls
At about 1 minute the walls are ripped away revealing the mice hinted at in the introduction of this piece. When the strings come in and climax I feel transported into the walls witnessing the mice travelling in Tron-like light paths. Then I turn away but the mice are still running in my memory never quite leaving. This is another radio ready track that I think would capture any audience with its power and emotion.

    Track 8:

enemies of the sidewalk
This piece opens like a circuit-bent electronic calliope. The contrasting part doesn’t appeal to me through it does take the calliope to a logical foreground sound against stuttering drum beat. Upon reprise the calliope section is viciously glitched. There are no prisoners taken in this track. It seems meant to express the pain inflicted upon the sidewalks. I suspect that after many listens this might become a favorite track because of the bizarre and twisted nature – like how a gnarled tree can become a comfort of familiarity.

    Track 9:

where car stereos go to die
My favorite title in a collection of colorful and apt titles this piece opens with electronic tumbleweeds bouncing with sparks in a backwards ambient wash of alienation. The B section comes at the perfect time with angular musical logic. This is music for an off-world night club.

    Track 10:

freezing the ports
By way of the explanation in the included pdf in the album I think this is a musical rendering of the experience of the Occupy Movement shutting down the Port of Oakland. There is suitable programmatic sound in the piece to support that idea. The piece conveys a sense of anger, majesty, and power.

    Track 11:

daytime television
This opens with a blues guitar track over a glitched computer voice. Unfortunately I’ve not yet been able to make out much of what is being said. When the rest of the band kicks in the blues – rock genre is clear. Compared to the rest of the piece it is nice but is overpowered by its siblings.

    Track 12:

concrete windowscape
I’m not sure what the backdrop wash is (reverse piano? Or reverse slowed down guitar?) but never mind as it is a perfect compliment for the eastern sounding leads meandering on top which paint an appropriate picture for the title. This composition I think could be a surprise radio play song for a late night underground radio station. The mood set here is very delicate and lonely despite the obvious mass of people that is Oakland California.

In conclusion I have to say this is an extremely impressive album. It bears repeating that the xenharmonic nature is clearly not the point. The album stays with one tuning (17 notes per octave, 17 equal divisions of an octave) throughout. As often happens when an artist limits some choices the result can be a boon for creativity. I think that is what occurred with the collection of compositions in this album. I can heartily recommend it and suggest supporting the artist’s future work even though the album is listed as “name your price”. And as a further note Spectropol Records is fast becoming a go-to label for the best in new music, especially microtonal music. I recommend you browse some of their other offerings as well.

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