The tribe has spoken: Katrina Ford has soul. Her atypical howl, marked by a fluctuating range that whispers sweet lullabies before catapulting into wildly and always exuberant battle cries, is nothing if not a marvel. For those familiar with the band’s self-titled debut, what Treble’s own Chris Pacifico described as a “vibrant punk party ruckus,” or her contributions to TV On The Radio staples “Wolf Like Me” and “Staring At The Sun,” you’ve already borne witness to its intoxicating power. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure, prepare to be launched into a mesmerizing display of vocal acrobatics that will melt all expectations faster than polar ice caps under a carbon-filled sky.
A dedication of sorts to Celebration’s similarly inclined musical friends, The Modern Tribe explores a landscape fraught with present day disillusionment. With contributions from members of Antibalas, Dragons Of Zynth, TV On The Radio, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, however, the band finds strength in unity. TVOTR’s own David Andrew Sitek helms the production duties as on the band’s debut, proving once again his mastery for subtly layered nuance (and on opener “Evergreen,” a not-so-secret love for wind chimes). As such each cymbal crash and keyboard stroke clearly delineates, each guitar pluck rings crisp and clean.
The musical drive behind Celebration, multi-instrumentalist Sean Antanaitis (guitar, keyboards, pedal bass) and drummer David Bergander, splashes an ever-shifting array of dramatic tension against Ford’s own ebullient vocals. Bergander’s percussion rattles and ricochets succinctly, primal one chorus and punk the next. Antanaitis churns organic organ opuses seemingly from thin air, a carnival masquerading as pure unadulterated gospel. While “Heartbreak” is a bona fide ballad, soaring majestically on currents of deep baritone sax, follow-up “Pony” gallops with breathy high-hat exhalations and Ford’s tumbling bellow.
“What is the fate of this world” she bemoans on “Pressure,” easily the best track on the album. As a hypnotically droning keyboard culls Bergander’s methodic stutter-stop beat like so much scattershot, Ford reduces Siouxsie Sioux to a mewling kitten. At one moment Ford’s eyeliner bleeds the blackest black, at the next her hair spikes toward the sky. It’s a bizarre gothic-cabaret for your inner punk, and is it ever exhilarating.
“Tame The Savage” is no less impressive, but certainly darker. “How long must we live in dark/ without a spark to see/ they don’t know what we’ve done/ they say the world has just begun to tame the savage heart of man,” goes the chanted mantra of the song’s ascendant climax, a sentiment chilled to perfection.
“Evergreen” is as beautiful a song the band has ever produced, an avalanche of wind chimes dances with Antanaitis’ chirping organ. Even the tribal mish-mash of various percussion in “Hands Off My Gold” is, well, pure gold. Good enough, in fact, to merit a remix from UK duo Simian Mobile Disco (whose version is, by the way, equally excellent).
The Modern Tribe screams in the face all that is desperate regarding the state of this world, offering, if addition to its uniquely feverish thrust, a glimmer of hope that when enough like-minded individuals gather together they might actually affect change (or at the very least make a remarkable album). That in itself is cause for Celebration.