Fire Talk is a little label that seems to be on quite a roll lately. There’s plenty of psych-leaning, but also some straightforward pop on the roster. There’s the weirdness of Baby Birds Don’t Drink Milk, the saccharine pop of Tennis, the sample-tweaking Birthdays, and the electronic bliss of Blackbird Blackbird. The new cherry on top of that mess is Tjutjuna (pronounced choo-choo-na, I’ve read), a four-pack of Denver-based heavy psych fanatics. From the album cover (that’s a depiction of the mythic Siberian bigfoot-like creature that the band’s named after peering through the leaves with the freak-out glasses), I guessed things would sound like a more playful version of Sun Araw. What I didn’t know (until further research), was that the group used to go by Mothership and had made a concept album about alien spores killing people or something. So, there’s where the dose of space that rounds everything out came from.
Anyway, the disc opens with the high-pitched squealing of electronic instruments turned really loud. The twinkling, scaling synths that follow are pretty cheesy electronically, but combined with the fuzzed-out, aggressive guitars and caveman thumping drums, everything comes together like you’re in one of those tubes of light that aliens use to abduct people, and you’re pretty nervous (yet geeked) about it. And they did all of that without lyrics, so I can only imagine what that opera’s like. Things get rough (splashes of feedback, waves of crushing synth noise), but everything comes out serenely, an ocean of those same scaling synths, only a little fuzzier. The song’s called “Mosquito Hawk”, for whatever that’s worth.
“Rise/Set” follows, a little Boredoms-y, very dramatic. Once again, the aggressive noise and thundering, chaotic drums break down the mood, but this time only the noise and fuzz last past the destruction, a light, heartbeat bass surviving barely. The swirls of psychedelic noise and guitar lines that bring everything back into life get overpowered by noise every minute or so, only to revive again. “Fist” comes next, more ambient in its nature. Things flow easily, a cymbal shimmering into place along the reverb’ed piano and chiming guitars.
The droning returns on “Tobermorey”, a textured wall of constant, grinding guitar building along tribal-ish drumming. It sounds a lot like golden-era Pocahaunted, but without the chanted vocals. “Bottle Kids” seems built on a repeated, fuzzed-out howl, shuddering drums anchoring the rhythm. The drone remains, but the squealing guitars over the top keep things on edge. The rhythm collapses in on itself, the squealing greater, swinging wider in its tones and octaves. “The Swish” is a little subtler, doubled over on its own trippiness, the rhythm more distant, aching, echoed, while “Tatanka Spirit” takes everything into a mellow meltdown, dripping things away bit by bit until the album is at its close.
This is some great psychedelic rock here, insistent drones, thrumming guitars and thunderous drums. Everything is powerful, in its simplicity or in its chaos. Tjutjuna know what they’re doing in these textured worlds and they do it damn well. Some of the bigger drones lack some subtlety, but the gravity of everything is just weighty enough to overcome those shortages.