I haven't heard Sustainable Gardening, the 2021 debut from Czech band Tryo, but their Bandcamp page suggests that it was an indie/art rock album. Two years later, they've moved to what they're calling "darker and rawer music" on their follow-up and it's certainly an interesting sound because it's a hybrid of completely different eras of music.
The earliest is a pastoral folk sound that's very sixties. It's there mostly on the second side, in the quiet parts of Haze, early in Unity and especially on Home. At the opposite end of the spectrum, a couple of sections on Haze are pure krautrock, right out of the early seventies. The core sound is a clear derivative of the mid eighties, when post-punk and new wave were at their most interesting, and the early vocals of Šimon Podrazil are right out of eighties alternate rock, because they're so clean in delivery. However, everything's phrased as soundscapes, owing much to the post-rock and shoegaze genres of the nineties and noughties, but with vocals delivered over the top.
Given how confusing that sounds, I should emphasise that it all merges together rather well and it opens up with the most conventional of the six songs on offer, Droplets. This one was writen in 2015 when Tryo seem to have been a more conventional band, but it's been massively changed, mostly a new song built on the bones of the old one. Karabach is edgier, but more commercial too somehow and it reminded me of the way that Paradise Lost got retro-new wave, merely slower and subdued, so that it's clear to us that, unlike them, Tryo were never a metal band who calmed down.
Tree is a decent song but it's a little lost in between the commercial edge of Karabach and the wild experiments of Haze. It works well as a transition between the two but it works in isolation as well, finding a delightful groove early and milking it for over seven minutes. That doesn't stop it being a little overshadowed though, because Haze quickly takes over, not just grabbing our attention but chaining it to a bed and having its wicked way with it.
Haze is where the "darker and rawer music" really comes into play, because it's a tasty exercise in contrasts. It's softer initially with some of that sixties folky psychedelia but, when it ramps up, it's not holding back. It does that twice, the first time feeling rather like a nightmare descending upon a soft, dreamy soundscape, not unlike a late escalation in Tree but more. That nightmare passes, but it returns and the wheels come off, with Hynek Čejka soloing on drums and Podrazil's guitar a seriously abrasive weapon. Only Čejková's bass keeps us grounded as we move through it to come out the other side intact but changed.
What's telling is that it's hard to pick highlights here. Droplets is the most conventional. Karabach is the most commercial. Haze is the most experimental. Home is the most pastoral. Those are easy adjectives to assign, but it's not so easy to pick the best or even my favourite. I like Karabach a lot, but I recognise some of those chord changes so it has an unfair advantage. Haze is the most overt song here, enough so that it climbs out of the middle of the album to slap us across the cheeks and cry, "Me! Me! Me!"
At the end of the day, I might have to consciously ignore its attentions and call out the subtle songs with their impeccable grooves, wich to me means Tree and Home. It's not an easy call, but that's a good thing. It felt like the album had depths from the very beginning, on those more immediately accessible tracks, but it takes a few listens to truly grasp how much it's doing and to appreciate its subtleties. I'd never have called out Tree and Home on my first listen, but they grew on every fresh listen until they staked a serious claim to being what the album's about.
Here's where I'd normally say that Tryo are a fascinating band who are new to me, so I should look back at their earlier material. The first half of that holds true, but I don't think I do want to check out Sustainable Gardening at this point, because I don't want to suddenly find them conventional. They're not here and that's why I like this so much. I think I'll sit back and wait for the next one.