Here we have ‘Vortex’, the fifth full-length offering from Spain’s Toundra. The instrumental album can be a funny old beast, at times. When everything works to perfection - as it did, for example, on 'Boundless', the latest work from Toundra's label mates, Long Distance Calling - the vocal absence matters not. Instrumental music can provide an emotionally powerful journey on its own terms. Ironically, then, with so much more going on in the instrumentations on Toundra's latest, when compared to the more minimalist approach adopted by LDC, it's quite a surprise that I find myself yearning for vocals on some of this stuff. 'Cobra', for example, as great as the instrumentations are, seem to lack a piece of the puzzle.
Okay, so Toundra are an instrumental act, so it'd be remiss and thoroughly unfair of me to demand vocals on their work, so what some of the tracks are actually lacking is the power to connect and convey on any kind of profound and sustained emotional level. They're missing something to give them that extra lift. That extra lift and emotional oomph that makes me want to bathe and revel within tracks’ affective depths. I just don't feel it with Toundra's music. It's a compositional thing, undoubtedly, as they're evidently all great musicians, and gel well together. It's just that tracks are rather unadventurous. And, on too many occasions, uninventive central motifs in songs fall into a cycle of repetition which only serves to amplify their shortfalls. Their post-rock-stylings do feel a tad generic, too.
All that said, there’s still a lot to enjoy here. ‘Cartavio’, for example, is a beautiful little piece in all of its ambient glory, and closing track, 'Cruce Oeste', has some very nice melodies interwoven within its mellower shifts in both style and mood. Likewise, for the ambient passages in ‘Mojave’. In fact, it’s the ambient-styled pieces and sections of music where ‘Vortex’ shines at its very best. I’m all for night and shade, heavy and mellow contrasts in music… but, here, during the album’s heavier moments, it feels a little too stilted and generic at times. And, ironically and almost paradoxically, as I alluded to earlier, it’s where there’s a lot more going on in the compositions that they feel lacking.
But, on the positive side, ‘Vortex’ is a very nice sounding album, production-wise, and I’m sure others will hook into both its mellow AND heavy vibes more than I’ve been able to. I think it’s also a case of the fact I’ve heard a lot of much better stuff for this sort of thing. For me, though, ‘Vortex’ is definitely above average, although certainly not a great album that stands out from the pack in any way.
Review by Mark Holmes
27th April 2018
1) Intro Vortex
5) Kingston Falls
7) Roy Neary
8) Cruce Oeste
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...what some of the tracks are actually lacking is the power to connect and convey on any kind of profound and sustained emotional level. They're missing something to give them that extra lift."