‘An assured sense of style’
The name of the band ‘The Tiller & The Tide’ sets the tone for their debut album: the ocean runs like a leitmotif through ‘Nero’s Prospect’, be it in the form of poetic lyrics about sailors, in the dusky design of artwork, or the rich soundscapes that inundate listeners from the get-go and carry them off into dream-like parallel worlds for the next hour. Sometimes it seems as if the musicians surrender without resistance to the various currents of the sea before grasping the tiller to navigate the waves with an assured sense of style.
These eight songs are the result of an eighteen-month creative process and yet the evidence suggests that the Leipzig-based band has already found its own style and expression. But it’s not surprising that the project is bearing fruit, given the long-time collaboration of singer-songwriter Robert Eder and Stephen Willis. The Austrian and Australian first met in Salzburg and toured Willis’ homeland down under before he returned to Europe.
Since the spring of 2010, Johannes Sens (drums), Markus Wagner (bass) and Friederike Bernhardt (keyboards, vocals) have rounded out the line-up. The Tiller & the Tide’s debut album was produced in the studio of Markus Birkle, guitarist from Die Fantastischen Vier.
In ‘Nero’s Prospect’ acoustic and atmospheric merge. Delicate acoustic guitar riffs and soft piano playing, melodic bass lines and gently struck cymbals accompany delicately harmonised vocal lines that conjure a sense of intimacy. Repeatedly carried by the melody, the songs are nuanced by complex, rhythm-driven soundscapes such that they oscillate between strength and fragility, energy and melancholy. The musical influence of bands like Iron & Wine, Elliot Smith, Bon Iver, Sun Kill Moon and Modest Mouse is unmistakable. The last track, which was produced in collaboration with the Blue Deck Horn Quintet, is a surprise: after seven quiet songs, the instrumental improvisation ‘The Fraxern Surge’ builds slowly out of the silence and bids the listener goodbye with a dramatic fanfare.