Tactics Debut Album

When it comes to music, there are people who listen more to lyrics and there are people who listen more to music. Generally speaking, I find myself to be the latter. Don’t get me wrong – a significant portion of my brain is tied up in remembering lyrics to songs I haven’t listened to in 20 years, but when I hear a recording for the first time I’m not trying to follow the lyrics and unless I plan on singing along, there’s a chance I never will. I believe that this dichotomy of listening is why some people just can’t get into instrumental or “post”-rock. Where they’re listening to hear “what” is said, I’m listening to hear “how” it’s said. Over the past 10 years or so I’ve gradually become much more interested in and find myself listening to a lot more instrumental and post-rock and since moving to Austin a few years back I’ve discovered a local treasure trove of such recordings.

Tactics is a band that I first heard when I saw them play a show with The Calm Blue Sea at the now defunct Beauty Ballroom last spring. I recall being impressed at the time and kept checking their Bandcamp page afterward to see if they had finished recording an album they had apparently been working on since sometime in 2010. A few weeks ago, just as the calendar ticked over to 2013, Tactics announced that they were finally ready to release that album into the world.

Tactics - 'Identical Movements'

On their debut ////////////, Tactics don’t bring much new to guitar-based instrumental rock, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Laced with artfully arranged arpeggios and describing a landscape of twilit valleys and soaring hills, Tactics reach for the high bars and grab hold firmly. The album’s high point comes during the six-and-a-half minute “Identical Movements”. Built on a bed of intertwined arpeggios the song roars into existing in its initial moments, only to quiet itself down just long enough to introduce a frenetic but sharply purposed mid-section and ultimately combining both themes as the song careens towards its inevitable end.

Overall the album is largely reminiscent of the early work of Austin post-rock mainstay Explosions in the Sky, though while both bands are speaking the same language, Tactics seem to have a sharper accent. Clocking in at just over half-an-hour, //////////// ends almost too soon for an album so long in the making, but not without leaving its mark. With more than a few post-rock outfits vying for top honors in the Austin area, Tactics definitely have their work cut out for them, but they’re off to a good start and I’m interested to hear what else they’ve got in store.

– Brian Audette