Tarwater - Inside The Ships (Tapete)

Ronald Lippok and Bernd Jestram, aka Tarwater, are a German duo specialising in moody, atmospheric grooves overlaid with detached, ambiguous spoken vocals… and sound exactly how you imagine they would.

Released Aug 29th, 2011 via Tapete / By Ben Wood
Tarwater - Inside The Ships (Tapete) Lying somewhere between classy soundtrack fodder and dense, glacially paced electro-pop, this is arty music for night people - or is that night music for arty people?

This is the pair’s eleventh studio album. Happiest feeding off the images and ideas of others, they have soundtracked films, plays, poetry and dance performances; collaborated with DJs; supported Goldfrapp; and been championed by the likes of John Peel, Gilles Peterson and Rob Da Bank.

Much like an iceberg, the seemingly stately Inside The Ships has a lot going on under the surface. It was originally going to be a space opera, and some of the song titles remain, though the concept was abandoned. And while it may seem quintessentially electronic, there are a lot of acoustic instruments (horns, percussion, pipes) in the mix – though often treated to the point of being semi-unrecognisable.

The record often throbs with the insistent, motorik pulse beloved of krautrock outfits – you can imagine Bowie checking this kind of thing out during his late 70s Berlin phase. There are grooves to be found, but you’d have to be a fairly weird dancer to find it funky, and it shares much of its DNA with ambience, jazz and post-rock.

At its best, this record sounds coolly cerebral yet sexy and decadent. The title track meshes the malfunctioning computer voice used to such great effect on Underworld’s classic first album, with unnerving bagpipe-type sounds. 'In A Day' picks up the pace with squiggly space noises, more freaky pipes and jazzy percussion.

'Do The Oz' takes the lyrics of an obscure Lennon/Ono B-side in support of underground pranksters Oz magazine (prosecuted for obscenity in the famous ‘schoolkids’ trial) and replaces its hippy tub-thumping with a more detached, ironic feel. And closer 'There Never Was A Night' (“it is the hour to be drunken…”) is a Baudelaire-esque ode to the systematic derangement of the senses.

Elsewhere, the muted tone can cause sections of the album to drift by without leaving too much impression. But in the right frame of mind – daydreaming in the afternoon, or out of your brain in some foreign hotel room – this slice of monochrome Teutonic brain candy could really hit the spot.