It's a rare and strange thing when a band uses the name of my hometown in their moniker and are not from anywhere in the area. Rare because I can't think of any other band that?s done it. Strange because it makes little sense. The only reason to name your band after a city is because that city has a cool sounding name like Halifax. Halifax just has a band name quality to it. Tulsa? I don't get it. Either way, on their namesake alone, I was intrigued enough to pick up their debut album. The other half of their name gave slight hints as to what they sounded like, but I still was caught off-guard when I finally heard this album.
"No Wake" is an instrumental sideshow. Its complexity is masked in its melodiousness. It's got loads of post-rock hints, but there's also a Victorian element because of their heavy use of a bass hammered dulcimer. As these songs lollygag along, they pull you in. From the opening delayed guitar notes of "Chiaroscuro," you start to hear the dark atmosphere that's prevalent throughout the entire record. It's the perfect accompaniment to the weather right now. It's grey, dreary, and raining with a chance of severe thunderstorms lurking all evening. Take that and put it in a Colonial setting and you're getting close. I imagine men in three-piece suits and top hats running through muddy streets as the weather goes from bad to worse. It's the presence of the hammered dulcimer that keeps their music from being spacey; it keeps it firmly grounded in dirt and stone.
On "Red's Theme," it's all about picking up the pieces after a tornado or hurricane has ripped through your home. Debris is scattered everywhere: there's a sink out by your neighbor's sycamore and your collection of ceramic figurines are smashed to bits on the driveway. The fireplace caved in, destroying most of your favorite books, but it's all inconsequential. Midway through the song, the sun comes out again and your family shows up in their beat-up truck. As you embrace, it's obvious that things could be a lot worse. For such a short song, it's sweeping and cinematic. Few bands have done work this interesting.
The band I am reminded of most when listening to "No Wake," is the under-appreciated Gwei Lo. It's dense music with a dark, almost chamber feeling but, at the same time, it's melodic and inviting. "Ironweed" is layered with muffled and choppy guitars. The bass hammered dulcimer drones in the background and plays off the guitars perfectly. "Honcho Toro" features a mandolin in addition to the hammered dulcimer and sounds like it would be played during a Russian ball in the mid-19th century. It's a period piece without being a period piece. When the horns fade in, it's jaw droppingly good. This is their finest moment, and it?s intense. On the surface, it doesn't seem to have a lot of energy, but when you listen to each element and begin to feel the mood of the song, you realize how much there really is. Excellent.
So maybe that's why they're called Tulsa Drone. Anyone who has lived in the Midwest during the spring knows about the fantastic thunderstorms that plow through on an almost daily basis. With the use of the bass hammered dulcimer, there definitely is a drone quality to their songs. I know very little about this band (which I intend to change), but their name will start becoming more commonplace soon. With talent like this, heads will eventually turn. The only way this could be better would be if they actually were from Tulsa. Then, I'd have an amazing band to see regularly. Highly recommended. 8/10 -- Brad Rose (25 May, 2005)