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While Crawling With Tarts (Michael Gendreau and Suzanne McKee) are now best remembered for their lengthy experimental works, their 1984 cassette Tearoom, reissued on LP for the first time by Concentric Circles in an edition of 300, reaches back to a more primitive, elemental time for the duo. Tearoom is a notable document of Gendreau and McKee’s early music, where guitars and voices collide in unexpected ways, with buzzing organs and wispy clarinets tangling over thudding drums.
While it sits comfortably within the parameters of the eighties cassette underground, Tearoom has its very own character, one untroubled by any need to align with the dominant stylistic moves of the music made by their peers. Opening track “Ithurial’s Spear” remarkably foreshadows the pared-back, home-baked non-rock of labels like Siltbreeze and Majora. With wah-fuzz guitar scrawled over a Peter Hook-esque bassline and McKee’s naive, almost childlike voice murmuring in the listener’s ears, it’s a perfect example of kitchen-sink psychedelia.
From here, Tearoom continually unravels itself, taking off layers as it progresses to its close. The delay-drenched guitar of “Gentle Wind” could have fallen from an early Roy Montgomery release, while “Chilada” takes slurred, slowed voices and rubs them up against clattering guitar, tin can percussion and tetchy bass. The rest of the second side is a wild ride, shuffling between organ/clarinet spray, scrawling tape spew, and on closer “House Spirit,” a typewriter ticking out letters as the city goes about its everyday business outside the bedroom window.
Tearoom is the perfect example of an album with surprises lurking around every corner, ricocheting from and finely riding the line between the most abstract of pop and experimentation in the truest sense of the term. With the humblest of means Crawling With Tarts created a musical world all their own, in the process making a truly revelatory experience for curious ears and gently twisted brains alike