T.R.A.M

Lingua Franca

1. Seven Ways Till Sunday
2. Consider Yourself Judged
3. Endeavor
4. HAAS Kicker
5. Hollywood Swinging
6. Inverted Ballad

[02/28/12]
[Sumerian Records]

The cover art of an album is a lost art. When put in the right hands, the cover art can compliment the album to make for a more memorable experience with the album. For example, take last year’s Februus; the absolute beauty of that album art tugged at my heartstrings. The voluptuous colors used in the background, the contrast of the sun and the uneven structure, and the subtleties, like the spark-esque lights in foreground and the individual tree in the background, simultaneously fostered a very warm atmosphere with the album, and made me enjoy the album that much more. Why? Because it made me picture the album art as part of the music.  The music was very lush and very beautiful, much like the album art.

One can liken that same concept to supergroup T.R.A.M.‘s debut album, Lingua Franca, and its album art.  Firstly, notice the colors.  Very inviting, using a good mixture of warm and cool colors.  Secondly, notice the painting, with its green sky and the strange use of purple.  Finally, notice the main attraction of the art, the two foreground characters.  Notice the alien and her color green.  Also notice how she has four of almost every limb.  Next, notice the primate to the left. How he’s showing off his gold watch to the alien, as well as his hat.  Finally, notice the beverages they have in hand, and how they both have subtle smiles on their faces, seemingly inviting you in.  If you accept, there’s only one thing you’re in for.

A real fucking weird time.

First off, in case you didn’t listen to “Endeavor“—the pre-production track they released a while ago—this is not metal. Sure, the players are most known in their other, more aggressive bands, but this is more akin to jazz-fusion. In fact, if you didn’t know who the members of the band were, you’d be rather surprised to know that the band is comprised of the guitarists from Animals as Leaders, the woodwind player (primarily saxophone) from The Mars Volta, and the drummer in Suicidal Tendencies.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3M0AHjykK7s]

The track above, “Seven Ways Till Sunday‘, sets a really good precedent for the album in that it’s kind of a summary for what is going to happen.  You have the unique guitar and drum syncopation, guitar and sax syncopation, sax solos, guitar solos, drum fills abound, weird sounds, lounge music moments, and the occasional female vocals.  It also proves how challenging the album is.  The structure is quite loose, definitely calling back the old records of John Coltrane or Ornette Coleman. If you are a metal fan and you aren’t used to something that doesn’t really follow a set structure (i.e. some mathcore or avant-garde), then you may not understand this record upon first listen, which is totally understandable.

However, those who come in with an open mind will be pleasantly surprised, as the album contains numerous melodies and solos that are very impressive.  Adrian Terrazas and Tosin Abasi prove to be quite the formidable duo when it comes to blazing solos and singable melodies, as those who have heard their respective projects will understand.  Javier Reyes and Eric Moore also show that ability to be a powerful rhythm section, as their timing is always on point, driving the entire group.

The production is also very good.  Everything feels really warm.  The rhythm guitar and lead guitar contrast well together, as the rhythm guitar sounds quite aggressive, and the lead guitar sounds like it was recorded with a hollowbody.  Terrazas’ playing is also benefited with the production, as it’s not too abrasive, yet not too mellow; a perfect balance.  The only thing I wasn’t too pleased with is the drums’ production.  I felt the drums were a little too high in the mix.  However, this is only a minor squabble.

There are a few faults with the album, however.  First and foremost, this album noticeably lacks the low end.  This is to be expected when the band lacks a bassist.  Sure, Reyes and Abasi’s 8-string playing and Terrazas’ bass clarinet may suffice for some moments, but I truly feel that an upright bass player would’ve really put this record over the top.  However, the lack of it leaves this listener wondering.

Also, some moments don’t really show the musicians at their finest.  The ending of “Endeavor” has Tosin playing this very strange guitar part which contrasts rather poorly with the beautiful flute solo in the foreground, and this kind of ruins the moment for me.  Also, those of us who play saxophone know how difficult it is to tune certain notes.  This happens occasionally with Terrazas and Abasi.  During moments where Abasi and Terrazas play the same part, it occasionally sounds out of tune.  This is, however, few and far between.

Finally, I honestly don’t understand why they would choose “Inverted Ballad” to close out the record. It’s a track that has no drums and no low guitar playing. It honestly ruins the momentum gathered by the album. Note that I’m not saying it is a bad track; I’m only saying that I don’t like how it closes the album.  If it was placed anywhere else or if it had a track succeeding it, this quarrel would’ve been nonexistent.

Regardless, this record was very enjoyable.  This record makes T.R.A.M sound like they have been a touring band for several years. It’s very mature and restrained, yet throws caution to the wind and does what ever it damn well wants to do.  The enjoyability of this album is so good, one must hope that this album is not just a one time occurrance.  I would greatly enjoy a sophomore album to see if they can advance their somewhat unique sound even further; to see them perfect their sound to innovative levels. If you’re ready to take a strange ride, then allow T.R.A.M. to take you into their lounge.  Just don’t let the aliens and primates scare you. They’re quite friendly, I promise.

T.R.A.M.’s Lingua Franca gets:

4/5

– GR

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