On first glance/listen, Keith Tenniswood and Andrew Weatherall’s newest Two Lone Swordsmen album, Tiny Reminders, doesn’t say a whole lot. No glossy faces on the cover. Close to zero liner notes. No multicolored booklet — unless you consider a green background with yellow typing multicolored. Similarly, Tiny Reminders’ sonic vision, a consistent and skilled set of electro forays (like King Tubby and Kraftwerk stuck in an elevator with only an electronic dildo to keep them company), doesn’t necessarily scream anything too important. At least not anything that hasn’t been said before.
But Tiny Reminders does leave a rambling series of hints — a sonic gesture here, a cryptic title, such as “Cotton Stains” and “Brootle,” there — that offer a glimpse at a mission deeper than contractual obligation. Even the project’s name, Two Lone Swordsmen, hints at a serious yet cartoonish approach, somewhere between messianic and mercenary. And titles such as “Death to all Culture Snitches” makes me feel not so in the dark about TLS’s angry, fuck-the-yuppies ’tude.
But what really makes this record worth four stars is TLS’s ability to conjure short and enduring tracks that turn knee-jerk reaction into awed admiration. In “It’s Not the Worst I’ve Looked … Just the Most I’ve Cared,” and “Constant Reminder,” the last two cuts on the record, TLS opts out of the electro it spent the last 17 tracks creating. It offers instead a low-fi, humanoid ending, with real acoustic and steel drums and a desolate guitar. Here, melody and release seep out of the album’s earlier bouncy coolness, tipping TLS’s hand and giving the album’s seemingly electrephemeral nature a new dimension. In the recording’s last breaths, the two men heave a collective sigh after an electronic workout. Finally, we hear what we should have been hearing all along.
Originally published for Metro Times under the title “Object petit a,” Wednesday, January 24, 2001