After what a five-year wait, Tooth have released third album Mudlarking – a bold double-album of rolling instrumentals and downtempo ditties. In the between time there have been plenty of live shows, a second solo album from Purdy, and Sir Robbo has been beavering away on beats for hip hop MCs. Tooth – and a host of guest players including prog veteran Daevid Allen from Gong and Soft Machine – nod equally to Secret Chiefs 3, Tortoise, Morricone, Can and Tuatara, but with a light, almost cartoonish edge at times. Mudlarking is a step up production-wise from the previous Tooth records and it is difficult to determine which instruments have been recorded acoustically or electronically, making for a lush and warm listen.
Many of the songs have an almost travelogue feel to them – ‘Avoiding the Road to Recovery’, for instance, which floats a winding, squirming melody over a head-noddingly addictive rhythm section. On the other hand, tracks like ‘Shift’ or ‘Monstrous Skies’ could easily be mistaken for My Bloody Valentine remixes, with their effected (and reworked) slivers of guitar. Throughout there is an influence of ambient electronic moods and low key hip-hop drum loops; indeed, the pool of styles and timbres is unusually diverse, which makes good of the premise of the album’s title – to search about the mud for objects of value. At times, though, in prog rock style, the use of electronic guitar sometimes seems a bit more dramatic than necessary.
Mudlarking’s strength is its balance of melody and texture. It is tasteful and exotic without being lazy even if the sprawling double album could have been trimmed back slightly.