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Tomaga – Familiar Obstacles

Familiar Obstacles

Familiar Obstacles

It’s been a bit over a year since my introduction to Tomaga, and the reason I’m getting back into the music of this psychedelic duo now is their latest album, Familiar Obstacles, which was released last year on the consistently impressive Hands in the Dark imprint (in collaboration with Negative Days and Blank Editions). This time, I easily restrained myself to using just one genre tag because, for better or worse, the most recent music that Hands in the Dark have been putting out is getting more and more focused towards various interpretations of this musical field, and Familiar Obstacles is not far away from it.

With this album, the duo of Valentina Magaletti and Tom Relleen dig in the direction that I was already expecting them to follow based on their work on Futura Grotesk. The music on this record is actually a collection of nineteen short tracks, but I can’t help but think of it as two long movements that sometimes sound like a psychedelic jam session (similar to their debut). Sometimes field recordings serve as a transition to more traditional song-based material, but it’s all somehow connected like a collage—probably because it’s absurdly abstract. Barely developing melodic material and variously processed rhythmic patterns abruptly appear, rarely looping or repeating in any way. Yet, these musical abstractions rarely evolve towards anything specific; they just take turns slowly transforming into what feels more like a puzzle piece than a homogeneous soundscape.



That’s how Tomaga like their creations to be, though. There’s no neutral ground for the listener’s perception to exist in—you either love their work or you likely just don’t get it. For my part, I can’t help but once again be very curious about being a part of this sonic world, but I still find that level of musical development that can make me return to their recordings to be lacking. For example, the final moments of Side A could have bookended the entire side on such a nice note, but it just ended too abruptly to leave a lasting impression that was anything but jarring. just like it started.

However, Side B offers much more in the way of positive elements, perhaps because it’s slightly more atmospheric albeit still fairly lo-fi. There are more foundational ideas present here that actually allow others to layer above them and reach a bit deeper sound, but it’s still very eclectic and difficult to grow comfortable with.

One thing is certain, though: Tomaga are creating music their own way, and at the end of the day, I guess that’s what matters the most when it comes down to underground art. It’s not important whether I’ll play their album one time or one-hundred, but it’s important that after just two of their records, I already know they have managed to evolve into their own style. Hopefully they don’t plan to leave it behind anytime soon.


Track List:

A1) Train for Owl
A2) Hibernation Theme
A3) Lettere di Pezza
A4) Central Position
A5) Fugue State in Marbles
A6) Central Position (Reprise)
A7) Over the Cracks
A8) Downpurge
A9) The Knight with Four Hands
B1) Frog March
B2) Brutal Gravity
B3) Microns in Amber Light
B4) Bethnal Grey
B5) Special Bass Line for Alan
B6) Biscuit Tin
B7) The Pegs and the Moon
B8) Adventure in Minor Scale
B9) Giant Cosmic Tear
B10) Closing Thrum

Rating: 7/10
Written by: Angel S.
Hands in the Dark Records (France) / HITD027 / 12″ LP
Negative Days (United Kingdom) / NEG002 / 12″ LP
Blank Editions (United Kingdom) / BETBC002 / 12″ LP
Independent (United Kingdom) / None / Digital
Experimental / Psychedelic