Tono-Bungay/Tower Recordings-

Rules of Thumb split 10"

Magnet Nov./Dec. 1997 (feature article on Tono-Bungay)

"There's something contradictory about Tono-Bungay's music; everything the band plays is spontaneously structured, yet it often sounds composed along recognizable rock 'n' roll lines. Multi-instrumentalists Bob Bannister and Robert Dennis first got a taste for stretching songs in the rock band Fire in the Kitchen. 'We had an improvisatory streak live, which was based much more in the West Coast ballroom bands: Quicksilver Messenger Service, Grateful Dead and their latter-day inheritors like Television,' recalls Bannister. 'There was a fundamental adherence to a fairly traditional style of songwriting and use of the song as a jumping off point that Tono-Bungay has entirely abandoned.'
Instead Bannister, Dennis and drummer Tony Cenicola make music in the moment, but they still use a rock vocabulary. They are as comfortable playing melodic guitar leads and steady drum grooves as they are making impromptu collages out of salsa records, arrhythmic percussion and guitar loops. 'On the one hand, we play together with a full respect for the fun of rocking our worlds,' says Dennis. 'And on the other, we're engaged in this unstructured, no-net-below musical dialogue that can involve a cohesive group effort to listen and respond to each other or an impish disregard for the same. It can go wonderfully awry or horribly well.'
Recently the band has visited the tower of song; Bannister laid a vocal over an improvisation on the trio's new album, Wunderkammer, and the group's cover of 'Morning Song Footnote' opens the Pearls Before Swine tribute record For the Dead In Space. 'Tony and Bob suggested that they thought it would be fun to actually work up and record a song just like any normal band,' says Dennis. 'I called them perverts and said that in fact that would be the weirdest thing we've ever done.' In a further act of perversion, Tono-Bungay's recent split 10" EP with the Tower Recordings, Rules of Thumb, finds the bands alternating songs rather than sides."-Bill Meyer

Ptolemaic Terrascope No. 25, 1998

"And another record worth finding, not least if you're interested in Sleeves as a Work of Art: a split 10" entitled Rules of Thumb which features songs from both Tono-Bungay (seven of them, no less, with the marvelously improvised guitar piece 'Vortex Burger, Medium Rare' at the center of things) and from art-rock rhythm deconstructuralists Tower Recordings, both of whom many of you should remember from last year's Tom Rapp tribute album For the Dead in Space. A treat in every respect: do yourself a favor and check this little beauty out - and when you've worn the record out you can always frame the sleeve."-Phil McMullen

Alternative Press Dec. 97

"Two of underground rock's unsung greats team up for a melding of the minds. On this split release, the results are as fragile and ensnaring as spider webs. These New York groups take lo-fi esoterica to new heights of fancy. Fragmentary 'songs' amble into earshot, briefly tickle your lobes with acoustic/electric guitar motifs, then fade out. It's beautiful without sounding familiar in the least, a rare thing in the current rock climate. Only 'Vortexburger, Medium Rare' 'rocks', but even its chunky power chords dissolve into smeared feedback, fractured knells and spluttering drumbeats. More typical is 'Swarm Cha Cha', which has the primitivist rattle, clang and chime of the Godz (crazed lo-fi avatars from the late '60's). Equally enjoyable are 'Tell The Bees' (an epic psych jam that's looser than a porn star's morals) and 'Weetam and the Parasomnia Major' (a gorgeous, ancient-sounding blues ballad worthy of Nick Drake). Both of these bands have released more substantial works than this EP, but Rules of Thumb boasts many subtle charms."-Dave Segal

Mole Number 12

"Very special record starring 2 masters of improvised, experimental rock who aim to expand sonic palette with ref to jazz, classical, folk and anything else they can grab. There's no telling where one band ends and the other starts-except obvious, Pearls Before Swine moments like 'Spider Hotel' or 'Vortex Burger', which is clearly Matt Valentine of TR. Power trio flow of 'Confectioner Zed' is prob Bob Bannister of TB, a band named for an obscure H.G. Wells novel. Squealer's triumph is your joy."-Jeff Bagato

Record Exchange Music Monitor March 1998

"...Rules of Thumb is a split offering put out by the fine folks at Squealer Records. Quite simply, the whole thing is a marvel, including the beautifully designed cover which evokes the mood of the contents. The Tower Recordings' songs hail from their Fraternity of Moonwalkers sessions and continue the quality neo-folk psyche the TR are best known for. The Tono-Bungay side shows them at their ethnic best. 'Swarm Cha Cha' is a clattering piece, not too far removed from something Masaki Batoh might do, while the last track sounds like the Tower Recordings. Maybe it is, since there is no specific indicator of who is on 'this' side or 'that' side. Either way, Tower Recordings, or Tono-Bungay, the sound is indicative of the uselessness of monikers for these bands that separate themselves from any form in order to mark out what is truly their own".-Michael Dimmick

You can also check out a review of the band's performance at the For the Dead In Space release party in the summer of '97.