Tradition Tradition

Tradition is James Klassen, who has been playing in Toronto for a while now. A couple years ago, Tradition was far more aggressive and angular, featuring Klassen on guitar and, usually, only a drummer backing him; this arrangement worked well as Klassen had more than enough fire in him to carry the show on his own. The new Tradition seems to have evolved (inasmuch as "evolved” means "less spastic”) but it doesn’t make his sound any less effective on a visceral level. Instead of force, however, Tradition’s new technique is insidiousness: his (mostly bass) drumbeats are sparse, heavy and slightly off-time, while his guitar lines are simple, catchy and repetitive — they would sound upbeat taken out of context. While the songs seem benign at first, they snowball into dark, hypnotic drones that are made eerier by Klassen’s abstruse lyrics and his slightly slurred singing. Droning is a popular pastime but not everyone who does it is aware that you need something to drone on in the first place; Klassen’s riffs are uncomplicated but the shifting tempos and beguiling melodies keep the songs tense and engaging. The only real failure here — a 19-minute one, unfortunately — is the closing track, which consists of one chord played over and over. This seems like laziness on Klassen’s part, as he is more than capable of writing real songs, and therefore has no excuse to cop out. (Then again, people listen to far less accessible music than this, so dig in!) Style-wise, Tradition’s Blocks debut rests somewhere between the Godz and Young God records. Heavy credentials but Klassen certainly has something. (Blocks)