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editor's note
Tristeza/The Rachels
November 5, 2005 – Neumos – Seattle, WA

by Chris Mulally

Tristeza’s story is a little bit like Tortoise’s, with a steady revolving door of musicians, breaks, and reformations, all the while focused on experimental, melodic music. To describe their music is like describing water. It moves, it flows, it is usually slow, it takes the best natural course, and it is immensely beautiful.

The quintet formed in San Diego in 1997, and has since blessed the earth with 7 full length and EP’s from 1999 to 2005. Their first album,
Spine and Sensory, demonstrated Tristeza’s early leanings toward instrumental, new-age post-rock. If that sounds hard enough to digest, it is best to listen to their tunes (

In 2000, they released
Dream Signals, which demonstrated what is both Tristeza and Tortoises’s master playbook—the spiritual art of repetition. The guitars weave, drums thread, and the players move together, playing tiny variations of a simple theme over geometric rhythms.

However, the thing that divides Tristeza from some other instrumental acts, including tour partners The Rachels, is their goal to create something that has ragged edges—something harder, yet still beautiful and soft. Math rock? Yes. That can include a share of what Tristeza does, but as a number of bands stumble out of the Math-rock era into something that requires a little more emotion, Tristeza have had years of practice already doing it.

On stage, guitarists Christopher Sprague and Jimmy Lavalle are intense, sweating and strumming on either side of the stage. They feel the music, they don’t just solve the equation on stage.

Tristeza is a currently a quintet, with Luis Hermosillo on bass, Jimmy Lehner on drums, Stephen Swesey on keyboards, and of course Lavalle and Sprague on guitars. Any chance to see Tristeza is worth it, because they have played and recorded all over the world, most recently in Tijuana Mexico, where they rehearsed material for their latest release,
A Colores.