I don’t especially like it when bands sneak by me like some silent stranger in the night. There’s just so much instrumental rock out there these days that it’s easy to miss a few here and there. I’d like to believe that I have my finger firmly placed upon the crescendoing pulse of post-rock. How Teller got by me beggars belief. To my credit they’ve only released one EP back in 2013, but this band hosts a member of Swedish post-rock band Ef (Emanuel Olsson) and was produced by Daniel Juline (also of EF). “Hello Scotland” is one of my favorite tunes of all time. This isn’t about Ef, though. This is about Teller’s first full-length Strive Recess Echo. An album seven years in the making.
Someone should really do a study on the effects that Scandinavia has on music. There must be something in the water. This is a part of the world that’s raised bands like Immanu El, Moonlit Sailor and Oh, Hiroshima. Not to mention Lights & Motion, who this blog is very fond of. I’m starting to believe I was born in the wrong part of the planet. Sure, I get to brag about post-metal sojourner’s Minsk, Russian Circles and even Tortoise. There’s just something about the sound that comes out of Scandinavia that just gets me.
Teller isn’t new to the game. As I’ve stated before, they have a member from Ef and indie outfits The Gentle Act Incident and Shiloh. Drifting through the band’s history I learned that Teller is actually an idea that’s been around for almost 15 years. From what I can gather (whether this was intentional by the band or not) is that they’re more than a group of writers and thinkers. They’re friends. The act of communing as a group to write music was almost secondary to their desire to just be in the same room as one another. To hang out. To have fun. I can really get behind this idea. The band’s desire to just be with one another and write has translated very well musically speaking.
Let me get this out-of-the-way first and foremost as I feel it’s the big elephant in the room: you can hear Ef all over Strive Recess Echo. This isn’t bad thing at all. I almost welcome it. But there’s a ton on this record that sets them apart. Yes, this is another instrumental rock album, but one that houses some incredibly infectious melodies.
One of the first things that really struck me as I was listening to this record was the musicianship. Teller are impossibly talented musicians and composers. And the group of folks they brought in for strings and brass are well deserved of any praise. I haven’t heard trumpets used this brilliantly since *shels. The horn sections nestle themselves perfectly among the driving guitars adding just the right amount of texture. There were ofttimes while listening that the song would drop and I would get pumped for the horn sections that wailed away with violent abandon. I’m not trying to take anything away from the guitar, bass and drums. Teller have managed to write some insanely gorgeous parts where you find yourself swaying lazily only to be brought back to the real world as they hit a crescendo. Your heart drops into your stomach.
You’ve been here before with other post-rock bands, but it just feels different. Teller doesn’t stick around very long on any one phrase. Just when you’ve fallen in love with one part, they switch it up and you find yourself traversing dark tunnels of eerie ambience. There are even some ghostly vocal undulations peppered throughout. The use of strings are sparse but always seem to be put in the exact moment when you want to hear them. Any one that’s a fan of pg. lost‘s early work will be right at home with Teller. A word of warning: If you go into this record thinking it’s just another loud/quiet/loud post-rock band, you’re going to be left wanting. Sure, they employ these ingredients with aplomb but Teller has a sound all their own.
In my past reviews I’ve often stuck to a particular theme in my writing to try and convey what it is about the record that I do or do not like. I’ve decided to forego all the poetic ramblings for a more straightforward approach. That isn’t because Strive Recess Echo didn’t inspire me in any way. It’s because I wouldn’t be able to do the album justice. It’s been four years since Teller’s last release. Whatever they did in that four years obviously worked. They noted that during that brief hiatus they were trying to find out who they were musically. Where they fit in. Instead, I believe they carved out their own little niche.
As the genre ages it’s becoming more and more difficult to stand out. Teller does just that. I’m reviewing this album late. Strive Recess Echo came out in November completely DIY. Had I listened to this album while it was still 2017 I would have had no problem putting it in my list of best albums of the year.
Hey Teller, I know it’s only been a couple months since the release but can we have some new material already?