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Dream Signals in Full Circles

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Album Review

When is instrumental post-rock not stereotypically instrumental post-rock? When it gives a good reason to listen, which is where Tristeza succeeds on Dream Signals in Full Circles where so many other bands fail. Like Mogwai, Tristeza aims at a feeling of musical warmth that belies the seemingly po-faced atmosphere of the presentation — the combination of guitar and keyboards on the opening "Building Peaks" is enough to suggest stumbling into a gentle, involving dream, with nary a vocal in sight (or earshot). "Shifty Drifty" is even more inviting, the guitar overdubs bright and sparkling, a soft waft upwards, while "Chiaroscuro" begins with a synth glaze that could make the song all on its own. Neo-soul rocker Bobby Conn adds some funk guitar on "I Am a Cheetah," making for an intriguing contrast that doesn't overwhelm the song. If anything, the drums bring in the funk at points as well, suggesting a path more bands should consider in the future, though the band finds its own particularly drifty way to wrap it up as a whole. There are enough moments to suggest a quietly cinematic chill as well, one of tension rather than simply experimenting but going nowhere with it. "City of the Future" lives up to its name, suggesting a nighttime atmosphere of glowering buildings in moonlight, a soft threat lurking in the shadows provided by a buried feedback drone. When a new keyboard melody starts up after the general mood is set, it brings back the warmth just so, even as the cyclical, circular performance continues. The one most overt Krautrocking number of the bunch, "Auroura Borealis," is pretty much a shorter version of Neu!'s "Fur Immer," but it makes up for the near plagiarism with yet another soaring yet deceptively simple guitar solo that evokes a beautiful blue sky to go with the open road.


Formed: 1997 in San Diego, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Known as much for their consistent touring as their prolific output, San Diego's instrumental rock quintet Tristeza formed in 1997. Guitarists Jimmy LaValle and Christopher Sprague, keyboardist Stephen Swesey, bassist Luis Hermosillo, and drummer Jimmy Lehner came together after playing in bands like the Locust, Crimson Curse, Swing Kids, and Gogogo Airheart, among others, and recorded their debut 7", Foreshadow/Smoke Through Glass, soon after. In promotion of the single, Tristeza toured three times,...
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Dream Signals in Full Circles, Tristeza
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