On Visits, Tammar pulls off a pretty incredible trick with each and every one of its post-punk anthems, probably something of which the band doesn’t take much note. They mine the classic sounds of paranoia, malaise and misanthropy (Joy Division, The Velvet Underground, The Fall and early 90s alt-rock), and fill it all with so much exuberance and joy of playing that each song becomes a triumph over anxiety and ennui. Visits finds each of the band’s five members stepping outside of themselves, but not in an snake-poison-ingesting, flopping-on-the-floor sense. It’s something else, something full of wonder. It’s witnessing a dear friend suddenly unveil an incredible hidden talent, as if that talent is levitation or some shit. These songs burst and evolve like water capsule toys. Warm beds of wobbly and fat-bodied krautpop prove to be overwhelming, atmospheric art-rock tours de force. You are left pie-eyed and windblown by the whole glorious affair. It’s the B-side of Neu! 75 as pep rally music. It’s the kind of thing that would have flipped Old Man Peel’s wig in another place and time.
After two excellent EPs on the vinyl-only St. Ives label (one a murky, humid introduction to the band; one a live compilation), Visits is decidedly Tammar’s proper mission statement. Their spears are sharpened and pointing at you from every angle. Evan Whikehart’s circular, lyrical guitar progressions pack as much Kinks as they do Public Image Ltd. or Red Red Meat (see: “Summer Fun,” “Yung Jun” and “Frost Meter”). And here, on Visits, they’re thick and crisp — on occasion weaving into Ben Swanson’s vintage Crumar and its droning/chiming black hole micro-tones. Each song finds a new, extraordinary sound coming from the Crumar. On “Frost Meter” it’s an angelic chorus of beeping radio towers. Other times, it’s a throat-singer, backing up Dave Walter’s from-the-gut-to-the-sun vocal explorations (“Deep Witness”). As a front man, Walter is endlessly exhilarating, inspiring and inspired. The vocals-as-lead-instrument recall James’ Eno-produced Wah Wah, but with the flare of Ian Curtis. When not singing proper, the careful ear can hear Walter conjuring the cosmos with snarls and gasps — put to pretty marvelous effect on “Summer Fun.”
The whole shebang begins with drummer Sarah Wyatt Swanson’s rat-ta-tat snare beats that whip-crack launch us into the aptly titled “Heavy Tonight,” a pummeling, would-be Sister-era Sonic Youth standout. It’s fitting her drums gets the first word here, because the double-Mo Tucker of Wyatt Swanson and Josephine McRobbie (percussion) is Tammar’s ace in the hole. We have brainwashed to believe European males gifted krautrock to the world, but that’s not exactly true. Wyatt Swanson and McRobbie remind us that it was Mo all along who, in fact, influenced that motorik beat. Their lean-into-it repetition and subtle layering drive the compositions as much as they decorate them —or in the case of “Heavy Tonight,” ultimately deconstruct them.
Visits was recorded over the course of 2010 at Bloomington’s Russian Recordings by engineer Mike Bridavsky. It was mixed by Paul Mahern (of Midwest punk heavyweights The Zero Boys) at his White Ark Studios. Erin Tobey provides guest vocals on various tracks.