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How It All Unfolds, Tesse

How It All Unfolds
Independent, 2017

This is a lovely record, meticulously crafted, consistently moving and warm. Sydney songwriter Tom Stephens and his band, Tesse, made How It All Unfolds with engineer Alex Bennet at Sound Recordings in Castlemaine, Victoria. The nine songs were written and produced by the band, with mastering by Joseph Carra.

Sound Recordings is a 100 per-cent analogue facility. The control room is equipped with a variety of recorders, spanning many eras of magnetic tape recording. The main live room is a 90-square-metre stone building with a high gabled ceiling.

The rural setting and vintage set-up have contributed to a relaxed and focused album.

The album opens with “Keep It Simple”, a manifesto. A simple groove, entwining guitars, drums, laid-back vocal. The electric guitar break is wonderful – dreamy and forward in the mix. “Step Into This Heart” ruminates on vanity and remorse. There’s a nice change in tempo around the chorus, a dancing piano. It’s folky, and just a little bit jazz.

“I’ll Tell You in the Morning” features a looping progression on acoustic guitar, with raindrop piano. It’s a little sleepy at first ­– a Darren Hanlon kind of vibe – before intensity builds to a glorious cascading finish. “I Can Only Hope” is a lament, tremolo-laden, with crashes of guitar like breaking waves.

Upbeat instrumental “A Line Drawn Through the Air” is a pleasant surprise – guitars are distorted, jagged, stuttering. Is that a theremin? “Earthworms” begins with a simple beat, the melody reminiscent of Sixto Rodriguez, a sadness conveyed by splashes of piano, short melodic phrases.

The title track is another lament for an absent lover – ephemeral love, the shock of gradual change. It may be my favourite track.

“Thin Plastic Thread” is languid, nasal, half-spoken. A song Paul Kelly or Ben Lee would be pleased to sing – “Nothing else matters, nothing else matters to me”. “I Wanted Something” is buoyant, ebbs nicely, with harmony vocals at just the right levels and intervals.

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