For almost any native English speaker, the word "tadaima" does not translate instantly from the eye to the mouth. One needs to gently decode the collection of vowels aloud before the Japanese greeting rolls off the tongue.
But the informal way of saying "I'm home" in the Far East is now locally something else entirely. For Oklahoma City quartet, The Non, "Tadaima" was the first song they wrote together after their guitar player Wil Norton returned from a semester studying abroad. Conceptually, the "homecoming" song, as Norton described it, later served as a philosophical core for the group's second album and summed up what the band ultimately wanted to say with their music.
"We're at home with our music, and we're at home as people right now in our lives," Norton said. So the instrumental rock band's second album shares the moniker, too. And what a home The Non have.
Tadiama is a lucid sonic adventure emoting and overflowing with melody. The songs and arrangements are carefully crafted and precise, but none of the intensity or emotion of the material is lost in the recorded versions.
Throughout the album the band is able to sedate, uplift and mystify the listener often within the same track. Simply listen to the song "Pigeon Force," and you know instantly that the band can rock. The song is crammed tight with guitar melodies and shimmering grooves that continue to evolve throughout the four-minute track.
But the band can comfortably go to the opposite direction just as successfully. The ambient and moody "Waveshapes" features a piano motif, slide guitar and a gently thudding floor tom that leads the composition into a pillowy noise oblivion.
So, how does one celebrate an album like Tadaima--an album that The Non, which includes the aforementioned Norton on guitar, Tom Bishop on bass, Zach Zeller on guitar and piano and Mack Hawkins on drums, are all incredibly proud of? One starts by selling out two consecutive CD Release parties on Jan. 15 and 16 at Oklahoma City music venue The Conservatory, which holds more than 250 people--usually unheard of for a local act.
But The Non wish to take their enthusiasm one step farther and one night longer by bringing the Tadaima celebration to a Tulsa audience at The Marquee, 222 Main St., on Friday Jan. 29.
The album and the band have much to live up to. Its first full-length release Paper City has sold more than 1,300 copies since its release two years ago--a sizeable amount for any local independent artist.
And the album has carried the band on tour to shows all over the Midwest. But the three CD release parties and touring are no surprise considering the reception the band has received since its beginning.
The Non started young, relatively speaking. They are a high school band--that is it formed when the members were between the ages of 16 and 18 four years ago. The humble musical beginnings were casual and mostly for fun.
"We would get together and improvise for an hour or an hour and half at a time and record it. Then we'd go back afterward and use the ideas we liked as a basis for a song," Norton said.
But the laid back approach the band was taking quickly altered when they began playing shows. The band's music sparked devotion in Oklahoma City audiences and word quickly spread about the band, which resulted in a fan-base. Suddenly the band's laissez-faire approach to songwriting was no longer adequate.
"[Now] when we write music we have an idea of where we want to go," Norton said. "So we sit around and figure out how to get there. As a band we've become better listeners. We have a better sonic palette to do what we want to do."
Although 2007's Paper City has done well for a debut release by an Oklahoma indie band, Norton admitted they are not completely satisfied with it. For many members of the band, it was their first experience in a professional recording environment, and they were subsequently intimidated. Instead of making objections or suggestions and pursuing the sounds in their head, the band just let the album happen.
But this dissatisfaction has had a profound effect on the recording and production of Tadaima. The band recorded the album in Norman and took its time trying to translate its intangible aural ideas to the recording process.
The band then drove to Chicago to oversee the mixing of the album and continued its hands-on production. Finally, the album was sent to Toronto for final mastering and approval.
Comparing to Paper City, "We got pretty close to getting what we want [on Tadaima]," Norton said.
The band's attention to detail and ambition appeared in an entirely different form in October of 2009. The Non performed its music at a special concert in conjunction with 15 classical musicians led by a conductor.
The original idea was to get the Oklahoma City Philharmonic to back up the band, but, unfortunately, the orchestra wanted thousands of dollars, according to Norton.
But they were referred to a bassoon player in the philharmonic, Carl Rath, who shared the bands vision and excitement for the project. The Non's guitarist Zeller was put in charge of preparing the score for the musicians and Rath was set to conduct. The result? The band and its orchestral back up took over Resound, a warehouse in Oklahoma City, and 300 people showed up to attend the show.
Although the band has no philharmonics in their immediate future, it has a busy year ahead. Norton expressed hopes to tour for at least two months out of the summer, and March will find the band playing several times in Austin at SXSW. In reality the third and final CD release show in Tulsa is only the first chapter in what Tadaima becomes to the band and its listening audience. When the band plays the title track they are not just saying 'I'm home' but also "konnnichiwa" to the future and where their music takes them.
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