Total Normal – Tales Of The Expected (MR CD1)

The artwork, an alien undersea image evoking a feeling of exploratory wonder, is for Total Normal's Tales Of The Expected. I never just expect to find myself in an amazing maritime odyssey, but at the same time, I never just don't expect something like that to happen. Life is kind of crazy sometimes.

Artist: Total Normal
Title: Tales Of The Expected
Label: Momental Records
Cat#: MR CD1
Keywords: Alternative, Ambient, Electroacoustic, Folktronica, Psychedelic
Reviewer: Alex Spalding

*… ring… ring… ring… ring… click*

Um… hello? Oh, uh… yeah, it’s me… oh! Kai! Yeah, haha, sorry about that, I didn’t recognize your voice. Yeah… yeah, I know, that’s because I’ve never heard your voice. Yes, I always pick up just after the last ring, it’s a test of the caller’s tenacity. You say there’s been another request for review?.. Oh… oh… uh oh… another one with a press kit, you say? And they sent us various links, excerpts of other reviews? Shit. Oh, no, I don’t blame you for not listening to it. I’d be afraid too! Yeah… you know I don’t want to have to write another bad review. I still shudder when I think of that other album we received, from that one band… what were they called? Golden Grillz or something… yeah, and the Bored Flies, I almost forgot about them. Those were the only other two requests that I know about that came with a huge press kit and several excerpted reviews like that. It’s definitely a sign, you know? And what do you think they’re thinking, that we’re not gonna listen to the album, just take our cues from some dick who writes for a shitty music review site!? Of course we’re not gonna do that, ours are the only dicks we need to listen to! Well, no, no… I don’t want to get in the habit of refusing review request submissions any more than I want to have to write a bad review, so thanks for sending it my way. Yeah, I know it’s gonna suck, but you don’t have to apologize. Hmm… ok, yeah, I think I just got it. Tales Of The Expected, eh? I’m bracing myself, haha! Well, I’d better go… yeah, I think I’m gonna just go ahead and get this out of the way, because we’ve got so many other things waiting for review and we’ve been so tied up lately. Yeah, you too! Take care. Bye bye! … … … you still there? No? Ok. Just making sure, before I put the handset down.

… Well then, dear, sweet, tender, sexy, not at all unsightly readers of Yeah I Know It Sucks… I’ve just spoken with Kai, and it turns out we have another review request. Typically, these requests are cause for joy and celebration at the secret, nonexistent headquarters of our humble blog, but I’m afraid that this story can only end badly. I won’t go into the details here, because I kind of just did already above, but suffice it to say that we are quite certain we won’t have anything positive to say about this album. I have donned black garb, symbolizing the lamentation, the deep dread I feel at having to write another terrible review. I have prepared myself for the play button that fate has thrown as a hazard into my path, for me to push and me alone, as in death; finality, endliness, a tango of inexorable despair awaits… no sense in putting this off any longer, so I will get on with it.

The first track is titled ‘Simple Minded People Like Me’ and… AAAaagghhhh!!! (_)_)lllllllllllD =====3 *explosions* 8D’ … yes, that was me just having an orgasm. Not an actual orgasm, of course, but a literary / audiological orgasm. THIS IS SO GOOD!!! Ohmygosh. My expectations for this record were as low as the quality of the record is high, so I’ve just achieved maximal satisfaction with the sound that hit my ears the moment this track started. The sound is very cosmic, jazzy – two things I love, all the more-so when put together. A smooth, percussive shuffle of brush strokes, ambient eclecticism, upright bass bits that sound massively inspired… deranged whispers, operatic vocal samples, amplified drops of water… this track has it all, and combines the sounds into a chill downtempo groove that sucks you right in, like a gorgeous… vacuum cleaner of sound. Fuck right it’s a vacuum cleaner! That’s it, I’m ridding myself of these horrid clothes, they’re keeping me from finding appropriate metaphors. I will write the rest of this review in something of a more relaxed fit, in brighter colours… no… nevermind, I don’t have anything like that and those clothes were just the clothes I normally wear. Looks like I’ll have to go nude for this one.

After that amazing introduction to the album we are treated to ‘Simba’. If I am not mistaken, Simba was a lion fathered by Mufasa who one day became the king overlord of the jungle after defeating his villainous uncle Scar and sweeping Kimba the White Lion under a rug someplace so no one would remember he ever existed. Things can get pretty hairy out there in the jungle, friends. There are pizzicato strings with a sort of swing. The vocals blend in very nicely, some of them seem tribal and others are lighter, feminine. It’s very avantgarde and well composed, with weirdo-funky orchestration. The xylophone is nice… the music is almost like a soundtrack, for an arthouse film or easily something by Tarantino. The sequenced vocal section is so cool, it starts to feel like it’s entering jazzy breakbeat terrain.

‘Junior Barnes’ has a really groovy brokebeat jazz vibe at first. Really loving the sound of it, it’s like I’m cruising on an ocean. There’s an intriguing vocal sample, bits of piano in the darkness. Dark vibes, ultralounge feel. I’m in music nirvana.

More brokenness on ‘Froofie The Dog’, with all kinds of esoteric electronica burbling with jazz drums, glitch clipping, reversed bell tones, vocal bits, latin percussion… it’s such a mishmash of sounds, and so lovely!

‘Mr. Sandman’ samples ‘Mr. Sandman’… it reminds me of one of those composite artists, like The ECC. Gets kinda funky with the addition of organs and a breakbeat groove. After awhile a house pulse comes in, lots of textures, layers over it. Toward the end a lot of the sounds are very sweet, so many harmonically excellent percussive bell tones that lull you into bliss.

‘The Trip To The Moon’ begins with a funky sort of sound, but quickly turns into a sound fetishists’ wet dream, a web spun by spiders, a tapestry of worldly acoustics. I feel like I could slowly sway back and forth. If this is what the music of the moon sounds like, then I’m ready to blast off.

After that wonderful track comes ‘Hugo Nine’s Nap’, with scaling and treated strings of many kinds, and it’s very unique and beautiful. Jazzy drums drop in and drop out, leaving spacy moments of amazing chill sound. This is so good… yes, I will say this over and over… oh, flutes too! An album after my heart. I am just being continually awed by this music. This might be my favourite piece so far, too!

‘Hugo Nine’s Dog Blacky’ is like a psychedelic folk track run in reverse… very peculiar to listen to.

Then comes ‘Porca Juno’, a very trippy and soft bit of sound at first until we are given over to the awesome bass and drum combo, plus acid synth noise! Damn! Very on, this track. Those organs are hot, too… all the sounds are just so amazing, woven together and flowing in new directions constantly…

… ‘Better Tell Me John’ is the next track, starting almost like a dizzy dark jazz piece with some IDM percussions twisting around in the mix. The vocal samples add a sort of eccentric flair, the kind that permeates most of the album. There’s a really pretty fluted section with a lot of mind-twisting acoustic bits sweeping around in the mix.

There’s this ring modulated dinging happening on ‘Soft Cage’, followed by some deep water drip / conga type sounds. Triangle chimes, bits of rhythm guitar, prepared noise float in… as well as lovely melodic bells. I feel like I’m just riding a horse or something, but I’m on a distant planet. How did I get a horse this far, what happened? The physics of this notwithstanding, the feel of the music is incredible. Weightless…

‘The Great Train Robbery’ picks up almost as if where, thematically, the last left off. We’re picking up speed, in fact. It’s like an experimental, psychedelic Western set to jazz.

More abstract jazz forms on ‘People In The Ceiling’. The vibe at first kind of reminds me of something like David Axelrod. It’s got a grim character, a sound like something about to happen. Then that beat comes in and we’re moving into an Italian zombie movie. The next section relieves the mood a bit with bits of sound compiled into a bizarre and totally immersive groove with touches of electronics. Very nice one, another of my faves.

‘Krautball’ brings to our ears a very peculiar sound, like a flood of lush frequencies. Those jazzy breaks come in, rocking it. Strings, horns, the usual business, in several arrangements ever changing, but always sounding like something Andy Warhol would have heard in his head during an acid trip. There’s a pause, and then another wild change… backward sound loops, piano with deadened reverberation, a low ambient chord held down with spare traces of harp and other melodics rising in. It’s very nice.

‘Blackbird’ is very avantgarde, an amusing composition of slinky string (or sax?) sequences, head-flushing vocal sample arrangements, vibes galore…

… and then ‘Nothing But A Rigor Mortis Face’ comes in with it’s stylized jazz’n’bass breaks, vocal clips that seem to flit back and forth between spoken word and a cut diva. The mix gets very shredded up and IDM-esque after awhile.

Some dark ambient textures seduce us from the background while female vocal clips sounding like a montage of someone shooting up in the bathroom float in on ‘Une main glaçée‘. A lowdown, raspy house groove of real subtle tone comes in kinda creepin’ along. I love the prowling feel of this track, the acid-tinged synths, the voices.

‘L’orfeo’ begins with acoustic guitar and a string section… it’s like a dusty trail that I’m staring out at from under the heat of the sun, straw hat unfazed by the slowly gathering wind, rolled tobacco in my mouth… then these sort of backward vocals that sound like Gregorian chants arrive in the mix, a chaos I can only welcome. Broken up jazz rhythms seem to teeter on the edge, falling off in places… the electronic sounds make the mix seem as if it’s about to corrode before the track has finished.

The closing piece, ‘L’avare’  is the best way to end. Short, funky, rhythmic, groovy, sexy… and highly explosive IDM clipping and sound collaging! The sounds, man… these sounds… I’ve gotta call Kai.

*ring… ring… click*

Hey, Kai!? Kai, it’s Alex! Oh… you’re busy making love? Really? Who are you all of a sudden, Arnaud or something!? Ok man, I’ll let you go, but be sure to tell them the album is good! It’s good Kai… so good. Like a full body orgasm, like tantric sex on a rooftop… tell them… that they can get this album on CD, and that they can also find the link to listen to it below this call. Kai? Kaaiaiiiiiaiaiiiaii!.. … … oh, you’re still there? Sorry, I didn’t mean to shout like that, I thought you hung up. Did you tell them? Ok… good. They needed to know. Are they attractive?.. … Kai? Hello?

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