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The Tarpeggios

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Immaterial (2021)


December 28, 2021

Tuning / Blend 4.3
Energy / Intensity 4.0
Innovation / Creativity 4.0
Soloists 4.7
Sound / Production 4.0
Repeat Listenability 3.3
1 XS 4.0
2 Wife You Up 4.0

Recorded 2020 – 2021
Total time: 04:00, 2 songs

Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 3
1 XS 4
2 Wife You Up 4

The Tarpeggios have unveiled a pair of vibrant, modern songs that showcase good solos and a strong ensemble. I find them hard to review because I don't like either of these songs. But it feels like the singers do, and that counts for a lot. Enthusiasm makes all the difference for a college group trying to sell its particular cover of someone else's material. The Tarpeggios bring that to the table.

XS is probably my favorite of the current duo. It's got a nice momentum and fun solos from Will Fangmann and Adi Pillai. It seems like a song to listen to while you drive around aimlessly, but in a good mood, with a steady drum-machine beat and background voices that wax and wane without ever really going anywhere. Wife You Up is a song that I just don't like. I tried to hear it the way someone who likes it would listen, and I can see how other people might connect with the lyrics or the solo — the tremendously ranged Gayathri Raghavendra — so if this is you, maybe take a spin on your favorite streaming service and see.

As a pair, these songs show a group that wants to make a certain kind of statement. For the audience they have in mind, it probably succeeds.

Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 4
1 XS 5
2 Wife You Up 4

I haven't heard the Tarps in forever, having not seen last year's online ICCA competition and not being near enough to the South Region to have seen previous shows. But this recording completely captures the complexity of sound and dexterity within the group. Like so many groups are doing nowadays, Immaterial is a produced recording of their competition set, and I'm so glad that they jumped on the bandwagon and made it happen. If you haven't watched the video, take a few minutes to do so. I'll wait.

Okay great, now even though you have an imprinted visualization, this recording explores and explodes so many more themes and motifs that you wouldn't have been able to pick up on while all of the flashes were happening in your face. And now you can enjoy it while driving in your car (don't try that with the YouTube).

As a Carolina alumnus, I can't help but smile at all the talent that keeps pouring out of the university and the depth of performers representing a relatively mid-sized school. The Tarpeggios join the Walk-Ons, Harmonyx, Samaa, and my former group Tar Heel Voices with recording excellence in the co-ed/mixed voice variety. And they are playing a major role in continuing the high standard that's been on the campus for decades.

The one fault that I have with the recording is that it is too short, especially the opener XS clocking in at less than two minutes. Just as the groove is really beginning to beat you back, the group transitions into the more melancholic Wife You Up. Both of these songs are stellar on their own, but the abrupt transition between the two leaves a lot to be desired. As singles, each of these could be 5s, but the forced pairing takes a lot away from the overall enjoyment, even with the wind-down arrangement measures on "more more more". Unfortunately, thematically, that doesn't make a lot of sense to flow into the lyrics of Wife Me Up. And even though it wasn't performed this way, the recording would have made more sense either as two singles or combined more as a mash-up so that we understand why the songs are put together to make Immaterial.

William Fangmann hurts he's so good as the energetic partner on the opener and Adi Pillai is the creamy smoothness that pairs perfectly with him. Their blend in the chorus is impeccable. And there is no reason to question why Gayathri Raghavendra has won soloist awards — she is everything.

If I weren't being generous, the fact that XS doesn't actually have an ending should knock it down a score — but my land, is it a hellava tune. Come take a listen, y'all, and understand what the Tarps can't cover up anymore about how good they are.

Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 3
1 XS 3
2 Wife You Up 4

This past season of the ICCA competition has been a very interesting and surprisingly welcome change to the a cappella landscape. Scholastic groups were forced to put every ounce of musical energy they had into a four-minute music video. With all the work that was put into it, it's not surprising that many of these groups have now opted to release the recording to streaming and purchasing platforms. For the most part, many of these releases have been singles. However, because Immaterial consists of two separate musical ideas, it comes across as the shortest two-song "album" I've ever seen.

As a two song set, I'm not sold on the release. XS purely exists as a setup. Because of this setup, there is no major progression of musical thought. This track is purely building. However, because of how powerfully this track starts, there is very little room to grow. The result is just roughly two minutes of a loud dynamic. Wife You Up is much more musically compelling. Soloist Gayathri Raghavendra breathes life into the story. The group's dynamics have far more direction and the track has more room to grow. However, the track is again harmed by being cut so short. I would have loved to see either or both of these tracks fully extended into a full length piece. As a short collection, there's a lack of musical progression for both songs that leaves me dissatisfied with the release.

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Ordering Information

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