AMN Reviews: Duet for Theremin and Lap Steel – DfTaLS, Helton and Bragg (2015; Bandcamp)

The Theremin and the steel guitar are distinctive instruments, but have a commonality – they each can create a spectrum of sounds and effects that go well beyond what one has come to expect from them. Atlanta-based DfTaLAS, featuring Scott Burland and Frank Schultz on those respective instruments, are joined here by Colin Bragg on guitar and Blake Helton on drums, percussion and electronics. Rather than providing specific compositions or musical structure, this quartet meanders through two 26-minute slabs of modern dark psychedelia.

Burland creates pulsing drones on the Theremin. Subtle, yet powerful, this base is built upon by Schultz’s steel atmospherics, and Helton’s disjointed percussion and effects. Bragg mostly provides plucked notes and a few moments reminiscent of electric solos. The group focuses on building walls of undulating sound, not unlike a mix between electronic music (ala Klaus Schulze), and 70’s Krautrock. But don’t get caught up in these Germanic comparisons – the characteristic repetition of those styles is eschewed for a musique concrete feel that slowly evolves between bright and dark, and between textures rough and smooth.

Every once in a while you hear an album that is intriguing enough to come back to over and over. This DfTaLS effort is in that category. Each listening brings forth new features, aspects, observations. There is a lot going on with this challenging and enjoyable release.

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