Top 20 Releases of 2017: No.6 – TG.Atlas – Lost in Puzzle City

tg.atlas - lost in puzzle city

CD, Impulse Records, 2017

Hailing from the city of Asahikawa in Hokkaido, TG.Atlas are an interesting example of a phenomenon of a certain kind of environment that seems common to smaller cities in the northeast of Japan. Cities of around 300,000 people, with only perhaps three or four live venues, are unable to support a self-sustaining indie rock or art-punk scene, with the result that the punk scene (every town has one) ends up hosting a surprisingly diverse range of musical ideas.

If you had any illusions that TG.Atlas are a conventional punk or hardcore band, the opening track Broken Flower makes the contrary clear, with its electronic beats and mournful, pastoral guitar line. Maze of Acid, meanwhile, is a minimalistic exercise in synth drone and effects. The heart of what the band do, however, lies in their ability to deliver expansive, Slint-like walls of noise, harsh, ragged metal slashes of no wave guitars, and discordant, repetitive loops in a way that never becomes too fussy or loses the anarchic spirit that ignites their performance.

Unbound by the scene and genre structures that tend to channel Tokyo bands into ever more refined and narrow iterations of themselves, Lost in Puzzle City throws up oddities like the unexpectedly poppy, new wavey closing Different Universe, which dissolves around half way through its six-minute running time into frantic, scratching guitar discord, or the expansive post-shoegaze wall of sound of Gone Red. Holding it all together, though, is a powerful core of relentlessly propulsive, thoroughly unhinged punk rock. That it never lets you get comfortable is at the heart of the fun.

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