Spanish post-rock outfit Toundra are releasing their eighth studio album, Hex, on January 14th, 2022. Like many bands all across the globe, 2020 forced a new and unexpected reality upon the Madrid natives, who found their touring plans cut short last year, and would begin shifting their focus towards recording new material under unusual circumstances.
Frequently travelling between Madrid and the Cantabrian Coast in the last year, the band would grow to embrace these uncomfortable conditions, and ultimately use them as inspiration to make a record unlike anything previously found in their catalogue. Their newest effort, Hex, is decidedly an album that is divided into two sides. Side A consists of a single, epic, 22-minute-long track, titled “El Odio” (Hatred).
‘El Odio’ is in three parts, in effect three movements. The first is eight minutes of a wonderfully haunting post-rock melody underscored with some real beef, akin to the likes of Mountain Caller and Dawnwalker – fans of both should seriously give a listen to this!
The second movement is lighter in touch, still unavowedly post-rock yet somehow capturing a touch of flamenco in its rhythm! Part Three is altogether darker in tone, deftly conjuring up the sense of anger, unease, tension, that are the base ingredients of hatred. There’s still a melodic thread running through this, it builds and fades in all the right places, before perhaps – and hopefully – pausing for breath and concluding in a generally softer tone, suggesting reconciliation. It’s a classy composition that does have that sense of a genuine post-rock concept track for a modern world!
Speaking about it, Esteban Girón from the band shares the deep introspection and “call to action” behind the track, saying: “I am thirty-four years old, and ever since I became an adult, relatively recently, I have lived in anger! Being angry at the world helped me to move forward in many areas of my life, and because of that, it became a necessity to be angry at the world. That state of mind suggests many things, such as a never-ending frustration from thinking that everything could have always been done better, for instance. I used to believe that being angry at the world was the only way to try to improve my surroundings and to improve the lives of those I love. All of this can take you very easily to really dark places. Life is too short to be angry!”
Estaban goes on to say “During the recording of this album, Macón approached me and showed me a video in which some unfortunate people climbed up to a balcony to steal a rainbow flag and then tore it apart. People below cheered and supported them. ‘This is 2021’, said the good old Maca with wide eyes. Finishing the recording of our umpteenth album, an event (the murder of a young man in A Coruña simply because of his sexual condition) brought us back to the topic that we wanted to reflect upon with an ambitious song that would illustrate how, since birth, human beings are struck by innumerable impulses that lead them to hate instead of love. Hate is not in the nature of any animal, not even in the nature of a human being. Life in this world of screens, numbers, and false justifications of mathematics, theories even more perverse than social Darwinism, de-nature the human being and lead them to hate whoever is next to them. I have never seen an animal hate and I have grown up among them“
“There are much better alternatives to hatred; I understand that now. And I can progress and grow more through love than by hating. Many of my best friends are having children, and when I see those kids, I always think, ‘I hope you’ll live happily in a better world than the one I believe we’re leaving for you.”
“If we allow the fury of hatred, racism, intolerance to grow; if we tolerate it, then what we love most, our children, will be the ones suffering a life of slavery, intolerance, and fear. Because, just like that poster during the Spanish Civil War said in the face of intolerance, ‘if we tolerate this, our children will be next.’”
Side B is then made up of four new tracks: Ruinas (Ruins) is on a list of prototypical songs that Toundra create at least once in each album. A song based totally on pace and energy; and the ever-spinning guitar-led melodies that have been their hallmark throughout their career.
La Larga Marcha (The Long March) follows on, it reminds me very strongly of the electronic and percussive nature of what one might call “The Mancunian Sound”, in particular the bubbly jangliness of The Slow Readers Club, shimmering around guitar-based loop effects. It’s a great track!
Watt is the first song the four musicians put together in the room to start the composition of this album. At nearly eight minutes it’s another almost classically composed piece, the use of a saxophone in particular drawing inspiration from King Crimson, sort of a blend of jazz rock with its inherent ‘Western’ musical scales and the differing tonalities found in other parts of the world, most notably the Middle East? And again shifting in mood and pace through three or four phases. Impressive stuff, anyway!
The album ends with Fin, an intended name to conclude an era in Toundra, the era of this album. Another tastefully created and impeccably performed arrangement, with a simply beautiful melody echoing recurring throughout – it is indeed a kind of elegy to what has gone before, a perfect closer.
As clever and as musically accomplished as this is, as with almost ALL instrumental albums my attention began to wander without the added dimension of vocals and lyrics. But I have to say it is right up there with the highest quality of instrumentals – I did really enjoy it despite my ‘shallowness!’