Teho Teardo | Grief is the Thing with Feathers
Specula Records (LP/CD/DL)
“To me it sounds like the scratch of my pen on a page. Like the pitter patter scrape of bone-on-wood, an imaginary crow walking across a real stage. It is bird-like. It is children talking in their sleep. Teho’s music doesn’t sound like these things, it feels like these things.” – Max Porter
The Italian musician/composer Teho Teardo has been releasing soundtracks and collaborative projects (Blixa Bargeld, Nurse With Wound, Ramleh) backdated to 1985, all with a uniquely outsider sensibility. For Grief is the Thing with Feathers he’s taken inspiration from Max Porter’s 2015 award winning novel of the same name. Teardo describes the project, “Strings here aren’t a matter of arrangement, they build a powerful structure. Nothing needs to be adorned here, no embellishments here, it’s about grief. Even when the music evokes the mother, her warmth and safety are delivered through distant voices full of debris, like a dark matter whose limits we don’t know.” Eight fairly short tracks unfurl this dark tale.
The deeply seated strings on A Bit About Ghosts is the perfect intro. It’s an emotionally reticent and slightly foreboding set of chords which open up with tweaked, almost hiccupping vocal treatments and desolate violin that have a soothing spirit. Apparitions rise as a chorus of voices that mimic the strings on This Is The Story Of How Your Wife Died which sounds like a transitional passage to further set the stage and mood. The abstract London Offered Us Possible Mothers furthers this sensibility that the action is in a floating limbo until the strum of a post-rock melody (ala Muse, The London Suede) quickens atop the otherwise brooding atmosphere. It’s a nice break that tightens the tension.
“The music for Grief Is The Thing with Feathers sounds to me, now, like my childhood. It sounds like the loss of a parent. It sounds like playing with my brother. It sounds like listening in to adult conversations. It sounds like growing up, making mistakes, writing things down, tearing them up, failing, trying again, falling in love. It sounds like remembering and mis-remembering realising they are in tune with each other, teaching us gently how to live in this strange world”. – Max Porter
Grief is the Thing with Feathers has plenty of those expected moments in repose, time to reflect on the cause and effect of loss (A Demon Who Fed On Grief). Teardo makes good on developing a palpable cinematic tone throughout, one might just imagine a myriad of characters in hallucinatory states of contemplation. Blending the steam-engine pace of Hop Sniff And Tackle that sounds more like a snippet from a classic Disney animated feature, the composer knows how to alternate auditory vignettes to create just enough variation in each ‘cell’ or storyboard, this is true for every single brief piece in-between (What We May Lose And What We Have Already Lost, You Fucked A Dentist). However, I’m not so sure how the smooth harmony of the latter explains the voracity of its subject matter – but is most definitely food for thought.
Finally Teardo’s finale is the kitchen-sink capture Unfinished Beautiful Everything. It starts off with a nice balance between clarinet, electronics and sort of slithers, or rather oozes forward. It’s a peculiarly eerie piece that masquerades like everything is peachy and bright, but with its raw underbelly slightly peaking. There’s a sinister “whistle while you work” factor embedded here. Get it twisted.