The Great Tyrant’s “Candy Canes”/”Walking Through the Walls” 

By Ken Shimamoto 

We saw tears trickle down his cheeks and fall on the keys, which, though wet, were now struck in a strongly dissonant chord. At the same time he opened his mouth as if to sing, but from between his lips there emerged only a wail which still remains in my ears. 


In the climactic scene of his life of the fictional composer Adrian Leverkuhn, the expat German novelist Mann might well have been describing a performance by The Great Tyrant. Arisen from the ashes of experimental outfits Yeti and The Pointy Shoe Factory, taking their name from a character in the classic Jane Fonda B-movie Barbarella (inspirational line: “You are so good you made the Mathmos vomit!”), the musos in The Great Tyrant have enjoyed playing “the dick in the coffee” (drummer Jon Teague’s phrase) for unsuspecting audiences while thrilling lovers of dark, challenging music since hitting the boards in early 2006. Released by local indie Dada Drumming with stunning cover art by David D’Andrea, this 7-inch single (on black-splattered clear vinyl with accompanying 4-song CD) is their first recorded manifesto.   

The A-side of the single starts out as a twisted waltz, like a calliope about to come careening off its moorings, before mutating into a roiling vat of 7/16 turmoil. The dynamic shifts in “Candy Canes” recall Yeti back when the late Doug Ferguson was still around, as well as “Cossacks Are” from obscuro Anglo-American pop star Scott Walker’s 2006 album The Drift. Daron Beck’s F/X-laden voxxx have the haunting quality that garnered a scathing comment from Simon Cowell (“You should be wearing ladies’ underwear and red lipstick in a cabaret club”) on, um, American Idol a coupla years back. On the flipside, “Walking Through the Walls” is a throbbing, dissonant pounder, with Daron’s distorted keys and Tommy Atkins’ monolithic bass coming across as powerful as any guitar-based heavy band. Credit Echo Lab’s Matt Barnhart for the record’s immense sound. 

On the CD, “Take Care” is formally similar to “Candy Canes,” at first overlaying a delicate filigree background with Daron’s groans from the crypt before shifting to an arcing, ascending melody over churning accompaniment: think electric Miles Davis – particularly Teague’s Tony Williams Rat Patrol drumming -- meets Magma (dig the music’s Wagnerian operatic quality). “Recounting Scars” is S-L-O-W, heavy doom-metal crossed with fin de siecle cabaret, the bleak soundtrack to a movie that hasn’t been made yet, Daron’s untreated voice an instrument of undeniable (if damned) beauty. “Closing In” opens with more horror show shrieks, which give way to a relentless ostinato that creates an atmosphere as claustrophobic as the song’s title would lead you to expect. The disc closes with a cover of Magma’s jazzy “Weidorje,” the debt acknowledged in full. 

All in all, it’s an impressive half-hour-and-change worth of music from one of the Fort’s most consistently creative units. There’s more to come, as they’ve been ensconced at the Echo Lab cutting a full-length in recent weeks. The Great Tyrant will be at Lola’s on February 21st with Red Monroe and Record Hop, then at Sloppyworld in Dallas on the 23rd as part of the Melodica Festival with the Melodica Mystery Band, Sub Oslo, and lots more. In March, they’ve got shows booked at the Doublewide in Dallas, the Chat Room, and Rubber Gloves in Denton. Dig ‘em.