Saturday, January 14, 2017

Album Spotlight - A Message For Marta (TAS 1000)

Inspiration can come from the strangest of places. Enthralled by the awkward, context-free messages found on a discarded answering machine, Canadian foursome Cass Picken, Scott Howard, Matt Krysko and John Rogers saw potential in what ought to be ignored.  Taking their name from the model of the machine, TAS 1000, and the album's title A Message For Marta from the name of the apparent owner, Marta Leskard, the group melded a musical hodgepodge of creative sampling, genre jumping, and musical prowess.

Released in 2003, the album has remained quietly buried below both the radar, and below the radar's radar, for it's entire existence - it's single dip into popularity coming in Club Penguin precursor, Penguin Chat 3, where catchy intro track 'I've Been Delayed' was used as background music. The album's other songs and skits have been totally lost to irrelevance, known only to those familiar with the aforementioned site's history. Yet, in some sense, the rarity of the album makes it all the more artistically unique; making TAS 1000 as antiquated and rare as, well, a real TAS 1000.

Marta is an eccentric collection of unrelated songs tied together by repetitive, lo-fi vocals, creating a very unique style. Ranging from simple guitar strumming, to bouncy pop beats, to face-blasting synths, TAS has taken this opportunity to prove themselves extremely capable musicians.

Though admittedly lacking a cohesive vibe, the album occasionally does well creating emotion and implication using it's extremely minimal lyricism - a task that ought to be commended, for it's sheer complication. Songs 'Parks Canada' and 'Before You Leave', using almost only one's interpretative skills to meld a sad, longing mood, complementing the mystery shrouding each vocalist and their intentions. While heavily dependant on the sampled words chosen, both serve as prime examples of how sound alone can elicit emotion, using fittingly dreary atmospheres to project the intended feel.

Besides this, most songs are generally nondescript, their artistic and literal meaning both a mystery. The lyrics themselves mean next to nothing; ranging from a complaint about seemingly stolen 'Protein Shoes', to an exacerbating announcement that an unknown caller is now a fully licensed hairstylist. Marta is hardly concerned with capturing a specific overall impact, and instead aims only to deliver a fun-filled jam clearly only driven by what the band really wanted to play. And, it shows - based solely on how filled-out each song is, TAS clearly put their hearts and souls into toying with both an experimental gimmick and finally showcasing their notable skills.

All things considered, the album is a bit loosely formed, though the individual songs are often surprisingly well-made for an album as unknown as this. The repetition can sometimes grow annoying, and some tracks are a bit too plain to make an impact. Though perhaps not exactly underrated - despite their musical work usually being higher end, nothing the album offers is especially new - Marta is totally unrecognized.

Bar one or two other songs and a lost documentary, the album was TAS' only creative foray. Despite being almost undeniably impossible, I'd personally adore further work by the group - Marta is lacking in areas such as cohesiveness, but there's absolutely traces of potential seeping from the record. Far from perfect, but a neat display of a creative idea put to work.

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