Tanner Garza
There's More To
Life Than This





Houston, Texas-based guitarist and Drone producer Tanner Garza approaches the concept of intensity in two different ways: either by augmenting his processed guitar washes with frequency benders and widening tone ranges, or via a more microscopic look onto a slapped string, atmospheric lick or rotatory sequence. There’s More To Life Than This and its five tracks certainly belong to the latter category. Released on Kevin Greenspon’s Bridgetown Records in an edition of 50 C30 tapes housed in a dark magenta artwork, the little album or EP can be purchased and streamed at Bandcamp. Described in the liner notes as a “natural document of cycles in a personal abyss,” There’s More To Life Than This inspects, erects and advects a void, an aqueous and increasingly stabilized rivulet of remoteness. Pondering and contemplating toujours. With the guitar in its epicenter, Garza’s tape does have its fair share of synth-oid movements and moments, but these are probably superimposed phantom frequencies or fugacities caused by clever post-processing. Since the topic is so clearly based on loneliness, it radiates all positive and negative things that come with it, transmuted here into sound; fragile clicks, portentous undertones, silkened drones and a good amount of omnipresent darkness are concocted into an intriguingly autumnal microworld.


The gateway to Tanner Garza’s murky syringa cesspool is called Remarks, a term every reviewer can wholeheartedly relate to. However, in lieu of pseudo-witty allegations, the listening subject finds itself on the razor’s edge right at the beginning, as the artist faux-lures and cajoles with the help of mauve-tinted nebula oscillations, Geiger counter-evoking click fusillades and an almost pastoral peacefulness. The cautious amount of echos lets the opener appear mucoid and cavernous at the same time. And yet a feeling of uneasiness grows and prospers, nurtured by the dark post-apocalyptic heating system drones whose alloy of dark matter inherits pericarps of cinematic grandeur. Clandestinely hollow, with shadows and specters wafting through the lacunar space, Garza almost crosses the path to Hauntology territory, but spares the listener with esoteric ornaments and chintzy undercurrents. Overlapping Dreams meanwhile delineates a setting that is much more benign: aureate guitar drones murmur through the comparatively wadded ether. Granular instead of pristine, the half tones in major emanate a saccharified afterglow which becomes more grainy and gunmetal-colored in the latter half. Resembling a reticulation of genteel static noise, this second track not only carves out the heterodyned frequencies, but also showcases the artist’s intrinsic concept of depicting simultaneities, presented here in a surprisingly soothing manner.


Shimmer For Us is next, a wondrously oneiric theophany supercharged with – presumably synth-fueled – magic droplets whose physiognomy is occasionally bent and elongated. The ensuing warped effect is as playful as it is a delight. As the title suggests, the bubbling drone washes gleam and glint, but the mood is not uplifting. The tone sequences are in fact withdrawn into themselves, resulting in a remotely guitar-accentuated (or rather completely guitar-based) alcove of contemplation. Additional vinyl crackles are adjuvants which further encapsulate the situation, serving as a semi-permeable moiré that stresses the surreal mellowness. The adjacent Iceberg Sweaters then revs up the low frequency spectrum somewhat unexpectedly. Here the guitar twangs are unmistakably situated in the epicenter. It is at the same time the most melodious piece Tanner Garza has etched onto or maybe into the tape. The tones are beautiful, ranging from vernal peacefulness to Asian pentatonicism. The varied segues outshine the otherwise fascinating amalgamation of sound, sustain and silence; even the occasional overdriven protrusion – a cautious ode to Shoegaze perhaps? – cannot annihilate the utmost beautiful event. Pennies For The Memory (A Lullaby) then kisses the listener goodbye with its equally warmhearted, melody-centered helixes of bonfire-esque ruralism, sun-dried chords and Mediterranean aureoles. Garza is at his most soothing here, balancing the luminosity of the sinews with the powerful lingering decay of the slapped strings.


It would be easy to mistake Tanner Garza’s tape for being recondite or dark. However, it is the interstices that illumine the five sceneries, so that the photometry becomes as purple as the front artwork. There is never a glimpse of overly saturated textures, patterns or surfaces enmeshed, making it possible for the looming nothingness or silence to play an equally important part in each composition. The silence itself is not much of a threat per se, but once the timbre steers towards doleful territory, the fragile state suddenly turns into a secretive sanctuary. Asthenic and fragile, the titration process of There’s More To Life Than This worships the soundless shapes as frequently as it highlights the isolation of each layer itself. Even if the layers are played at once, they are not entangled, nor do they interact with each other, thereby causing some sort of dithery ghosting effect. When the ringing sound outgrows the original slap of a string, the result is particularly noteworthy. In the end, Tanner Garza’s tape is minimal Drone with twisted vestibules to certain Glitch constituents such as pops and crackles. It is a soothing, susurrant work whose mild peripheries cannot hide a potential feeling of utter loneliness at certain points. However, since the Mediterranean material is put to the end of the album, solace and thermal heat overcome the colder state, or at least that’s how I would like to interpret it. If Happy Ends are what one is searching for, then There’s More To Life Than This is indeed more puristic than poignant.


Further listening and reading:

  • The tape and its digital incarnation are available at Bandcamp.
  • Twitter twist: the artist tweets as @TannerGarzaBE, information about Bridgetown Records are tweeted by boss @KevinGreenspon.


Ambient Review 371: Tanner Garza – There's More To Life Than This (2014). Originally published on Sep. 3, 2014 at AmbientExotica.com.