We review the new album from TUDOR – Janus

As a two piece band that was formed through the COVID lockdown, TUDOR’s debut album utilises instruments and production that were on hand. Taking the album name from the Roman two-faced god of duality and different points of view. 

Jack & Honey opens the album, telling a detailed story of a gambler and possible outlaw Jack, and the pursuit of him by Honey. By utilising a variety of influences and a limited number of instruments and effects, TUDOR show’s that you can make music with anything as long as you have the right gear on hand. By using ambient noises of slot machines, the scene is set for a straightforward rock song to take place. There’s the usual hooks, riffs, and interesting use of various percussion throughout. It sets the tone nicely for what’s to come, the stories of two people, both as characters. And the stories of the two guys behind the music. 

Adrestia takes an immediate left turn after a few moments of silence at the end of Jack and Honey. Slowing the tempo down to a much more lounge oriented track. Using a set of intricate drum beats, and a funky bass guitar as the main instruments setting the scene. The duet between TUDOR’s members, harmonising vocals together just adds to the off the wall style that the band is going for. Once again there is an element of sampled sounds bookending the song, this time with a dial tone ending the song. 

The third song, The Track, continues with the jazz and lounge inspired feel. But this time there’s some international music brought in to flavour things. Using orchestral instruments such as a flute and violins. It does take on an unplaceable sound, giving off both far east, and middle east kind of vibes mixed with the jazz influences already on display. With even more eclectic percussion being brought in as well, such as something that sounds like the tapping of cutlery. It begins to border on free-jazz at some points with how boldly it leans into these elements. 

With a gong chime, a rising bass rhythm, and a sample of a crowd cheering, The Show is clearly based on personal experience at a music venue. It’s very clear and obvious what the song is encapsulating, with it’s obvious theming.  It does feel like the natural evolution of what the other songs have been building to, with it’s much more pronounced drums and the marriage of this with a bass guitar taking the lead on most of the songs. Whilst the lack of rhythm or lead guitar is slightly jarring to start with, it makes TUDOR adapt around the lack of them. It feels much more rewarding when you realise this is what makes TUDOR’s sound so distinct, giving off a sound that’s both familiar and like nothing that you’ve heard before. 

Please, mark the halfway point of the album, and reverts to an even more primal sound. Taking influence from traditional tribal music with it’s heavy and slow drum beats and wailing vocals, that quickly give way to a tragic song about begging for someone to be saved. As the song evolves there comes a point where synthesiser comes in, along with a full-on guitar solo that’s as crunchy as it is catchy. It’s surprising that it comes in at such a late point, but adds credence to the fact that TUDOR were making this up as they went along, working with what they had. Along with some prog elements, and only the first half of the song telling the story before giving way to the extended solo, we’re treated to an interesting song that’s full of surprises. This is only amplified when violins and cello begin to enter the rhythm, marrying tribal, orchestral, free jazz, and alt rock into one song. 

Song six, Believe, once again leans back on the jazz and lounge feel. With a piano and guitar taking the lead here, in juxtaposition to the earlier songs’ use of drums and bass guitar. The guitar and piano giving off such a sombre sound and rhythm, add an attitude to the track. It’s distinct and ever-evolving, continually using the prog influence to transition between sounds effortlessly. Believe is easily the most interesting track up until this point, purely for just how far this is taken, with the song’s start and end sounding like two wholly different entities. 

Perigee is a song that sounds straight out of a period piece drama soundtrack. Starting off with this slow build of piano, into a rollercoaster of guitar, bass, percussion, and otherworldly synth to round out it’s extended intro. For a moment it does feel like it’s about to be fully instrumental and really embrace that grand movie soundtrack feel. It does keep the extended instrumental sections, which do make up a large portion of the tracks five-minute runtime. At one point a far eastern sounding string arrangement does take over slightly, along with a middle eastern influenced sound taking hold towards the end as well. The return of the sampled sound to end the song returns, this time with a throaty engine starting up before fading as the car drives away. 

Apogee is the sister song of Perigee. With Perigee being the most upbeat song on the album, coupled next to Apogee being the most sombre and gentle. With a Perigee being the point at which a satellite such as a moon is closest in its orbit, and Apogee being the furthest. It’s a clever marriage of two songs placed next to each other, both with polar opposite feelings. 

Apogee uses a piano track and an Erhu (Chinese violin), to give a much more tragic feel to the song. Despite the somber feel of Apogee, it explodes into a beautiful track that, whilst no less somber, morphs into this grand expression of emotion through music as guitar and drums take hold. 

After these two songs, the mood immediately shifts, with Still Breathing. Keeping the eastern influence with its use of an erhu. We move back into the more jazzy sound from the earlier parts of the album. Along with sampled voices cutting in like ad-libs throughout, it’s once again expressed this uniqueness that TUDOR possesses. Its upbeat nature gives it big attitude and makes it very impactful. Along with how much the song progresses its sound, it’s deceiving that this song is actually one of the shorter tracks on the album. 

The closing track is also the longest. Wicked Game, is the culmination of everything that has come before. The slow build up is possibly the most ‘normal’ sounding track on the album. Using the usual drum, bass, guitar, backing sounds from a post production standpoint. It’s a love song through and through, and loops around nicely as though it’s the conclusion to the story of Jack and Honey from the opening track. 

As an album, Janus does feel like a concept album in some ways. The stories told through the album all seem to be tangentially connected and possibly from one overarching tale. It also lives up to the name in its duality of production. Bouncing back and forth between genres throughout, as the song breakdowns have described thus far. The utilisation of various influences, instruments and such throughout. As the album progresses the lines between these various points of view, ideas, sounds and moods begin to blur together. By the end of the album, and on the closing track in particular, it feels as though the one face and identity of the album have been found. It’s no longer this two-faced album trying to be both a free jazz album and an alt rock banger with some ballads thrown in. Instead, it becomes one distinct entity that would be incomplete without the sum of its parts. 

When an album is described as “like nothing you’ve ever heard before”, it’s usually just a slight over-exaggeration and should be taken with a big pinch of salt. But Janus truly does break this rule, and it’s a challenge to find something that’s this distinct in music today. TUDOR are really sitting on a winner and has put out one of the most unique-sounding albums ever conceived as a debut. It’s truly an impressive feat and one that becomes even more impressive when taking into account the limited amount of instruments, production gear, and the COVID pandemic into account. Truly Janus is a one of a kind album from a one of a kind band.