The best kind of bass line sounds like a growl that’s about to break into something more ferocious–that it never does will always be half of the appeal. Unlike a screaming guitar solo, the lack of climax is why a bass line sticks with you–all that unfulfilled, circular pulsing–its dark potential carries a song from melodic into malevolent. Tiergarten’s “Paradigm,” off their debut EP Magnificent Desolation, starts with a bass line like this, like a skeleton key for a lurking underworld. You’ve got the recording bassist Jay Marcovitz (formerly of Dirty Dishes, one of the best bands in the world) to thank for the thrilling opener, but the song quickly veers into seething ’90s era grunge punctuated by drummer Mitchell Talavera’s sharply persistent percussion. These things come into view first, like a skyline looming over Alex von Klemperer’s eerie, rubbery vocals, that eventually become the focal point like a sun slowly setting. The most apt analogy for their sound is to call it sunset pop–looming dark all streaked through with waning light.
Named for an an inner-city park in Berlin, Tiergarten have turned their attention inward, and their initial EP is an exploration of inner darkness. Currently, the live band’s lineup includes Talavera, von Klemperer, Seamus Kilmartin on guitar and Lorne MacArthur as bassist. On “Paradigm,” the spelunking seems to dissipate darkness though, the terrific riffs are never quite terrifying, the hopeless lyrics float back up on the melody’s hooky, smirking insistence. “‘Paradigm’ is my anti-anthem,” von Klemperer said of the track. “It’s a pessimistic pop song about wallowing in the pressures of NYC. I wrote it when I was at my worst. I think there’s something therapeutic about writing a catchy melody with dark lyrics.” I’ve listened to this song 17 times in a row while writing this, and I have to agree with him–I feel strangely comforted by the song’s twisting grey energy. It’s rare to hear a band able to balance tension like this on a debut, yet Tiergarten are beyond balancing–they’ve contorted dark and light until we’re forced to hear both as one. After all, aren’t they? That’s a paradigm right there. If you like what you hear also check out the EP’s initial track “Aeons (Infinity Glow)” below, catch them at Union Pool in a couple of weeks and look out for Magnificent Desolation on 6/17.
06/15 Brooklyn, NY @ Union Pool
Magnificent Desolation is out 6/17.