Tilth is a monument to stillness. Rock Music is the latest in a series of exploratory full-lengths and the first since 2015’s stellar Country Music. Their music is unconcerned with the changing direction of the winds or the lithe movements of contemporary life, but rather, as always, it is centered on ageless approaches and everliving harmonies. Rock Music uses familiar elements, but stripped bare they become the bones of tomorrow built with yesterday’s soil and the neverending song of our bloodlines.
Rock Music is focused. There are pieces to this puzzle that spring from both McLaughlin and Yantis having moved to more urban areas (McLaughlin to upstate New York and Yantis to Colorado), though the pastoral expanses of previous work still find their way into the roots. Guitars flit between coarse riffage on “Jimmie Dale Gilmore” to the sublime, considered ambiance of “Sugar” and just about everything between. Emotive arrangements move like molasses, considering the next step as if it will be their last. This music is the sonic equivalent of a rich sauce boiled down to intensify the flavor, where each note holds the world aloft with its resonant timbre.
So much of Rock Music is pensive yet is imbued with tranquil hues at every turn. Opener “Earth’s Grammar” echoes blithely with bowed strings silhouetting the last light of the day while the bass-laden vocal hums carry a different weight. There’s a recognition that the quiet moments to come may be peaceful and even a little sentimental, but perils are lurking in the shadows cast. Chords hang in the air like a long-held reservation from the distant past on the rolling expressions of “Salt & Blood“, each successive passage building on the last until breaking free in the euphoric release at the tail end. Tilth holds steady, necks stretched to see over the fading horizon line.
The angles may be more obtuse and the landscapes less obscure, but Tilth remain steadfast in the aural bedrock. This is rock music at its barest form; stark and unadorned, heavy as ever. On closer “Four Corners,” the hollows are saturated with the textures of the universe, no longer empty and no longer at rest. Rock Music is a small classic for the forgotten favorites; for the never-weres. Cody Yantis and Nathan McLaughlin have finally returned.
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