Teton is the brain child of Elizabeth Lovell and Sam Klickner, both raised in small, rural towns in Southern Illinois. Klickner, a music school drop out, primarily self-taught performer and improviser, toured and recorded extensively as the drummer of Chicago’s avant-pop band Wei Zhongle while Lovell, a classically trained pianist, fronted various outfits within the DIY circle, eventually cutting her teeth in composition while working on a research facility in Antarctica in 2013. Soon after their romantic collision, the duo relocated to Portland, OR to immediately employ the work of bassist and fellow, former-Illinoisan Jef Hill. Following a year of rehearsals, the band recorded their debut with long-term friend, collaborator and engineer David Allen (International Anthem) and promptly began performing along the Pacific Northwest and West Coast regions of the United States.
The band’s debut EP, Candy Spelling, is a six song collection of contrapuntal art-pop originals recalling pop traditions from 80’s icons like Kate Bush and Prefab Sprout to dualistic prog greats such as Magma and Henry Cow; from Early medieval music to 20th and 21st century new music. Exploring lyrical themes of companionship, labor, birth, and the manifestation of intent, Teton delivers a wholly abstract yet specific aesthetic that bears striking resemblance to the album’s art work designed by Klickner, with it’s surrealist figurative and architectural forms painted by dark gradients of burgundies and purples. The album also features guest appearances from Portland local luminary, Andrew Auble and clarinetist, John McCowen.
Candy Spelling is a flowing Dalinian song-scape, salted with melodic and counter melodic flourishes that are rarely found in modern American power trios. It is at times hard to believe Teton is only a three-piece. Throughout this forceful debut, the listener is often dealt five musical voices from the three performers. Lovell delivers vocal lines that work polyrhythmically against her own quilted, double synth accompaniment. Klickner and Hill provide an erected, powerful back bone — a detailed trellis of rhythm and counter melodies.
Teton’s sound is perhaps partly the result of the couple’s actively polymathic lifestyle: Lovell is a clothing and fiber artist, Klickner—a busy filmmaker and visual artist. The combined aesthetic is largely surreal and texture based with an encompassing dualism projected throughout. The songs are both masculine and feminine; delicate and aggressive; welcoming and merciless. Within these 25 minutes of music resides a fantasy world operative on dream logic and chaotic symbolism. Indeed, Teton embodies their mountainous namesake— a bold and towering ecosystem of taught, woven voices charged with an emotional richness found only in the intimacy of lovers.