Trioscapes - Separate Realities
Record Label: Metal Blade
Release Date: May 8, 2012
Come with me on a journey through time and space.
It’s a tag similar to the one that opens the strangely peculiar Brit-com The Mighty Boosh. And while the Boosh didn’t quite achieve as well when it made its journey to America via Adult Swim, Metal Blade metal-jazzers Trioscapes sound as if they’ll fare much better as far as getting us to embrace their weirdness. The jest is appropriate though considering the often odd nature of Trioscapes' sound is apparent regardless of the reference point. Dipping through humming jazz, distorted saxophones and off-kilter drumming, the noodling and grooving of the purely instrumental Separate Realities is a hefty serving of Zappaian orchestration with a focus on the quirks and motifs of these particular pieces. It’s a bit of a challenge to pick and choose throughout, but as a whole, Separate Realities submerges us effortlessly into a realm of thick, unescapable melodies and thoughtful plays on rhythm and time. It isn’t an album everyone is going to be able to enjoy on the same level, but it will most than likely speak to those with a leniency to forward-thinking instrumentals and math-rock aficionados.
In the six tracks of Separate Realities, the trio – sonically consisting of drums, bass guitar, saxophone and flute, both of which are occasionally tonally manipulated – takes on a mixture of time-bending arrangements felt more as a groove-founded listen than something that moves in standard songwriting structures. “Blast Off” lives up to its name, setting the pace and mission of Trioscapes’ sound with a flurry of sax rips and technical drum licks. The introduction to the track flashes the band’s strength right off the back – coming together for groove-heavy sections that display cohesiveness as opposed to spotlighting instruments in the wake of a down-played rhythmic section. It is a bit difficult to think of these tracks in verses and choruses, but the repetition of certain motifs in Trioscapes’ arsenal is what makes these tracks stick – and “Blast Off” is a prime example of that. The nearly twice as long title track takes a moment to get going, but in the wake of a strange introduction that preempts the spacey tones seeping throughout this track, a buzzed out bass helps push the track into the nearly psychedelic territory and allowing it to not get lost in the solo-esqe nature of the saxophone on this one. The xylophone is a nice touch and break up point for the song, reasserting the Zappa tone of this band while almost bringing the track back down to Earth in the process.
“Curse of the Ninth” summons the jazz flute, again pushing the laid-back nature despite relentlessly busy drumming in the background. While certainly not always right in step with the melodic grooving, the drumming only reinforces the ability of this trio to with and alongside each other in the melodic and timing structures in the songwriting process. Impressive? Yes. Necessarily memorable? Not as much. As far as curveballs might go though, closer “Gemini’s Descent” arguably stands out the most in this collection of unpredictable numbers. Tribal, yet delicate percussion, whimsical melodies and a near mechanical groove make this slow burner an easy one to literally just get lost in – and not in a bad way. Further keeping us guessing, the nearly unseen switch to the normal instrumentation of the band seems a bit bare in its execution despite the interesting dueling grooves that weave back and forth between matching and complimenting. The fine line of musicianship versus accessibility is certainly challenged repetitively on Separate Realities though, and more often than not the band keeps things from getting too out of hand when soloing or riffing off of one another.
As far as perhaps bringing jazz or orchestrally approached songwriting to a crowd not as keen or aware of its influence on bands, Trioscapes succeeds on a plane of not only trying to push our conceptual envelope, but their own as well. It isn’t suddenly recognized throughout or perhaps as consistent as hoped for, but Separate Realities challenges and disregards any notion of normal as far as most would be concerned. Yet even as it is not quite understood or attached to, the merit of the musicianship stands out that much more. This is a record you will get lost in – for better or for worse.