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Art Rock

Tim Hill
Museum Piece: Tarantel at H. Lewis Gallery.
Tim Hill

By Lee Gardner | Posted 10/25/2000

Sonna, Tarentel


The buzz from Tarentel guitarist Jefre Cantu-Ledesma's amp was louder than the music when he and guitarist Daniel Grody first begin playing, repeating a contrasting pair of spare, single-string riffs back and forth to each other. The electronic hum and echoing strings alike were easy to make out, given the space and the crowd--the floor of the tiny H. Lewis Gallery was carpeted with quiet student types, sitting cross-legged or leaning against the art-lined walls. When multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Hughes sent synthesized drones from a Roland Juno 60 pulsing up through the music and bassist Trevor Montgomery added his own basso plucking to the fuguelike build of the first piece in a long, seamless set, the volume level rose, but the music maintained a contemplative spell.

The San Francisco-based quartet is not always so low-key--the wide-screen instrumental sprawl of its most recent album, From Bone to Satellite, kicks up quite a ruckus at times, as the band does live under ordinary circumstances. But Tarentel was keeping it on the down low especially for this occasion, a joint gig with local quartet and current tourmate Sonna (both bands record for local label Temporary Residence Ltd., run by Sonna guitarist Jeremy deVine). Hughes finally sat down behind a drum kit two-thirds of the way through, but he mostly teased the cymbals with fuzzy mallets. Still, the overall effect of the band's subtle weave of repeating melodic patterns and shifting, spacey textures (at one point Montgomery underpinned a rich drone by stroking his bass guitar with a violin bow) was so entrancing that no one in the audience clapped until the set was over, when they clapped wildly.

Tarentel ceded the gallery floor to Sonna, which offered its own take on mostly instrumental non-rock rock. The quartet, which featured deVine, guitarist Chris Mackie (who warbled on one song), bassist Drew Nelson, and drummer/keyboardist Jim Redd, relies less on textural variety and epic scope. Sonna tunes tend toward delicate, melodious instrumentals sprinkled with Rhodes-piano fairy dust, courtesy of Redd (who tied everything together with crisp percussion when not behind the keys) and Nelson. Again, the audience saved its substantial applause until the end.

Ultimately, the H. Lewis Gallery was the perfect setting for this show. In a bigger room or a more standard venue, listeners might have tended to lose focus, maybe wander off and talk, and nothing would have been more detrimental to this music than the sort of back-of-the-room murmur so common to quiet sets in local clubs. And if the two bands' music is a little static for the average rock situation, the intimate art-gallery setting framed it perfectly, as the rapt patrons took in the musicians' creations.

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