It’s all so Melos
In 1983, Harvard professor Howard Gardner proposed seven types of intelligence. For example, someone can be a mathematical idiot but excel at basketball, wherein a mathematical genius might be hopeless on the court. Gardner’s concepts were revolutionary because they implied that standardized intelligence tests are hopelessly limited and that abilities that we wouldn’t necessarily think of as academic are still a form of intelligence.
Musical intelligence (which is one of Gardner’s types) long has been accepted as a particular form of genius, and we have a long pantheon of celebrated musical geniuses to back up that thinking. It’s a line that goes back to Mozart and on up to the Beatles, and perhaps beyond.
To say that Tera Melos is genius, then, implies something significant about the band’s collective intelligence. These people are “music smart” and then some.
First, a word of caution: Tera Melos surely isn’t for everyone. It’s instrumental music, for one—as incendiary, complex and brutal as any you’ve likely heard. Furthermore, Tera Melos’ music is melodic, beautiful and very, very interesting.
Now that I’ve run out of descriptors, allow me to change gears: Imagine local math-freakout rockers Hella mixed with an instrumental version of Yes or early Genesis, swirled with San Francisco prog-metal act Neurosis and finally smoothed out just a bit via Ummagumma-era Pink Floyd. Take that, chop it up in Pro Tools, add a pinch of Australian instrumental landscapers the Dirty Three, and you have some idea of what Tera Melos does.
Last weekend at Roseville’s Underground, Tera Melos exploded instantaneously into a barrage of complex noise art with such absurd abandon that it was actually funny. In fact, that’s the one criticism I have to offer the band: The line between enthusiasm and absurdity is one Tera Melos crosses often in its stage antics. Think Spinal Tap. But once the band got down to the real business at hand, the music was fascinating.
If there’s a central focal point in the band, it’s the lead-guitar work of Nick Reinhart. Part pedal tricks and part crazy four-fingered hammer-ons, Reinhart’s guitar playing is interesting on its own. At the same time, it melds tightly with Nate Latona’s bass work and Vince Rogers’ drumming. With technically skilled rhythm guitarist Jeff Worms supplying the requisite chord structure for the songs, Reinhart’s playing really has a chance to shine.
This is not to say that the band is in any way spotlighting Reinhart, for every piece truly is ensemble playing. The interlocking melodic parts explode into white noise before telescoping back into crazed counterpoint melodies.
Worth checking out? You bet. It’s seldom one stumbles across local music that screams of Gardner’s intelligence types the way that Tera Melos’ does. This is absolutely one of my favorite local bands, and if you read this column regularly, you’ll know that’s not something I’ve said very often (if ever). Visit the very basic Web site at www.teramelosmusic.com for more information.
I’ve not yet had the opportunity to check out Sacramento’s newest all-ages venue, since Junta’s opening has been delayed by a few weeks. Based on the latest e-mail from booker and co-owner Charles Twilling, it appears that the first show at Junta might very well be a November 17 date with GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan. That’s an auspicious beginning. Stay current on Junta’s opening schedule at www.myspace.com/juntalive.