Tristeza – Mixed Signals

by Terence Leung

I’m a huge fan of sleep. There’s nothing like it. There’s nothing better. Nothing better than a 19 hour slumber, which usually results in an unholy dreamlike haze (in which some people call “headaches”, but I digress) that I’ve somehow over the course of my existence, associated it as a “good thing“.

However, in those 19 hours, much of it cultivates in the heaven known as REM sleep and then there’s the small portion in the beginning of sleep in which you feel drowsy, still conscious and fully aware that the next three-quarters plus day will be devoted in achieving REM sleep.

But what’s in between? The time in which you can be considered unconscious but not yet in REM is utterly useless. It doesn’t make you feel good nor does it make you anticipate for the “feeling good” portion to occur. And that’s what Tristeza’s remix album titled (somewhat uncleverly) Mixed Signals can be associated with. Shitty sleep music. No REM and no anticipation of it.

Track 3’s “I am a Cheetah” starts off well enough in a fuzzy haze then breaking off into a tidy swirling melody of xylophone-soft synth keyboards & bells, but it goes horribly awry when you suddenly realize that it could pass for a soundtrack in a 16-bit adventure video game fit for the Super Nintendo. The only distinguishing feature is its dirty and highly syncopated fuzzy beats, which comes from nowhere… seemingly (not always a bad thing, please refer to Aphex Twin’s Richard D. James, for further elaboration). Now I said “comes from nowhere”, which is not parallel to unpredictable, it’s anything but. It’s predictable because of its unpredictability, as you know the song has gone on far too long (the track runs at around 6 minutes) without something to happen. So you wait for it and ultimately you get it, which becomes disappointing. Then again, if nothing did happen, it just becomes vacant… it’s a lose-lose situation.

Much of the album revolves around Tristeza’s inability to provide something that could be considered a payoff, be it a culmination of melody, a unique melody that strays from garden variety-like Arpeggios, beats that take you for a wild ride, or even something that you can ignore. The high production values make the album sound too clean, too empty of life, and too much simple mindless repetition. I only wish I could class this as Electronic Fuckery, but I can’t. To its credit, it has created a whole new sub-genre (in my head, of course) which I can only call Fuckery, which no one appreciates.

But there is a bit of a bonus in the album where Simon Raymonde of the Cocteau Twins appears on “Are we People” that features some highly understated pentatonic-based guitar (!) work. Alas, no Elizabeth Fraser here, but it is something.

I guess what I can liken this to is the hidden track in Radiohead’s Kid A at the end of Motion Picture Soundtrack which left most people scratching their heads and going, “Okay then… that was unnecessary.” Mixed Signals is a full 51 minutes long with Radiohead’s hidden track already clocking in at 1 minute. But hey, for some people sleep is sleep, it’s linear… or you can try to delude yourself so.

  • Tristeza – Mixed Signals
  • by Terence Leung
  • Published on February 1st, 2002
Mixed Signals
February 2002

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