Describing the trip through “Familiar Obstacles” is no easy task; the accent here is on the obstacle, rather than the familiar. It’s an EP by the two-piece band Tomaga (a previous “Band of the Week” victim), with fourteen songs spanning forty minutes. But distinctions like “LP” or “EP” or even “band” or “songs” are more or less stripped of their meaning by the capable hands of Tomaga, or at least handed over to exponentially broader definitions. This process allows “Familiar Obstacles” to emerge as a pair of explosively engrossing, superb and subversive side-length explorations through musical landscapes that are anything but familiar, and where the obstacles are transformed – sometimes elegantly, sometimes violently, never less than compellingly – into openings.
The opening moments of “Familiar Obstacles” sound almost haunted by Tomaga’s potential for radical reinvention. An alarming drone eventually gives way to a looped, insistent bass rumble, creating a kind of sound-sutured, industrial skin laid atop a wheezing motorik-heart, which we initially expected to eventually erupt forward in full “Hallogallo”-mode.
But what’s expected seldom finds purchase in the territories explored by Tomaga; five-and-a-half minutes into Side A of “Familiar Obstacles,” we’re deeply embedded in an indescribable percussive pattern, a staggering, shape-shifting illusion of sound presented with alien aplomb by Tomaga. The battered, distorted-Dictaphone dub bass-line that follows allows for some equilibrium adjustment, but throughout “Familiar Obstacle,” Tomaga confronts the listener with a constantly shifting sonic landscape, one always imaginatively perceived and radically presented.
“Familiar Obstacles” is a brilliant meditation on the sounds that arise at the edges of our waking consciousness, where the structures that separate rationalism and hallucination are in a constant state of breakdown. Highest possible recommendation.
“Familiar Obstacles” is available now from Hands in the Dark Records.
“When little obstacles crop up on the spiritual path, a good practitioner does not lose faith and begin to doubt, but has the discernment to recognize difficulties, whatever they may be, for what they are—just obstacles, and nothing more. It is the nature of things that when you recognize an obstacle as such, it ceases to be an obstacle. Equally, it is by failing to recognize an obstacle for what it is, and therefore taking it seriously, that it is empowered and solidified and becomes a real blockage.” – Sogyal Rinpoche