Tera Melos: Mutation in Berlin by Matthew Carter

Editor Roy Coughlin, Music, March 8th, 2014

Too weird to live and too rare to die.

tera melos live in berlin by matthew carter
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Under a bridge is a fitting place to encounter the dizzying rock experimentation that is Sacramento’s Tera Melos on their European tour. For one, they don’t resemble any facets of Berlin’s popular electro night life, and therefore are confined to play at a wayward perch under the metro line. And second, the venue, Marie Antoinette, with its windowed view of the Spree River epitomizes the many post Berlin Wall businesses being displaced by corporate real estate, in which Tera Melos is in good company. They too are too weird to live, and too rare to die.

Melos’ Norcal upbringing was unalterably shaped by the sound of other Sacto band Hella, although it is of little importance which outfit came first. With a moniker in Latin that means “thousand melodies,” Melos’ jangly toggling of mathy leads and frenetic, fill-heavy rhythm made them easily classified as Norcal Math Rock. Yet this cubicle of designation, formed from the aforementioned Hella’s popularity, was too small to encapsulate Melos’ current sound of progressive pedal electronics and palatable indie touches.

Melos live is like seeing the primordial ooze which we all came from take many forms, by re-atomizing itself with every tangy momentary melody, it evolves right down to its fossilized dinosaur skeleton. Guitarist Nick Reinhart will typically start a song by organizing from his laboratory of a pedal board, always ready with the next ingredient to turn jagged patterns into alternating composure. “Bite” is a perfect example of this, as it is given birth by looping a rattling dirty chord, only to sprout wings and take flight on the soaring of Reinhart’s cooing vocals. Likewise, drummer John Clardy’s impeccable preservation of timing is just as mesmerizing to watch, as his tricky footwork is unbelievably done with a single kick pedal.

“New Chlorine” off the band’s most recent X’ed Out began the set with all of its tumbling fervor that regresses into meanderings of country-fried licks. Formidably agile on both vox and strings, Reinhart’s brainy strumming often advances into climatic finger taps, with suspenseful pulls on the strings that will have you feeling like you accidentally ate a ghost while playing Pac Man. During one momentary pause mid-song Reinhart even improvised into the closing transition of the Simpson’s theme song.

The band mainly stuck to a set list off of X’ed Out, including “Slimed,” which has the shambling cartoon bass line that could easily be Mr. Bungle hero worship, but also included offerings off of 2010’s Patagonian Rats, such as “The Skin Surf” and the 8-minute narrative “Trident Tail.” While the song negated the free-form saxophone solo heard on album, Trident’s lighthearted claim of “There’s not enough powers in the day,” is like an imaginative diary of an under worked costume store clerk.

However lawless their song structures become, and no matter how apathetic they become of current trends, the crowd at Marie Antoinette spells out that Melos’ cult following across continents has not waned. Do enter their world of spliced mathematics and mutated euphoria at the next opportunity.

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mathew-carter-bioMatthew Carter studied abroad in Trondheim, Norway, where he played drums for college credit. After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary studies: Journalism with Poli Sci from SDSU, he then moved to Portland, OR, and continued his career as a music venue manager. Now living in Berlin, Germany, to further pursue journalism, his work has appeared in Redefine MagazineTruth-Out and Occupy.com. Matt currently works as a guide giving tours of street art in Berlin.

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Roy Coughlin

Roy Coughlin repairs washers and dryers for a living. In his spare time he lies about being a writer. Roy was part of the original team at NAILED, and was the Junior Managing Editor until June 2014.