Sumerian Records 2012
One must not only praise the musicians involved, but also Sumerian Records for releasing what is essentially a pairing of jazz fusion and progressive metal. It takes a lot of balls, not only to play, but to put out an EP as challenging and as instrumentally-inclined as T.R.A.M.‘s “Lingua Franca” in this musical climate.
Sure progressive metal has made great inroads throughout the years. Animals As Leaders, Between The Buried And Me and their ilk are great examples of that. But not since Candiria or John Zorn has progressive metal groove and full-on jazz skronk gotten together with such a high profile.
Comprised of a lineup gifted with pure talent, T.R.A.M feature Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes from Animals As Leaders; Adrián Terrazas-González of The Mars Volta, etc. fame; and Eric Moore of Suicidal Tendencies.
Most noticeable on “Lingua Franca” — aside from the exquisite musicianship and free jazz heroics, is the inclusion of horns and woodwinds. Their presence is continually felt and serve as a bizarre sort of instrumental vocalist.
A soulful journey, the songs are rife with moments of underlying complexity and ascendant noodling. When the band fall in the pocket, such as on “Seven Ways Till Sunday“, the immensity of their craft is nothing short of overwhelming. Watching the outfit organically transition from numbing aggressive strums and offbeat drums into a funk-tinged harmonic uprising is a most invigorating experience.
Though at times a flurry of conflicting rhythms and whirling melodies, the material isn’t just chops for the sake of chops. There is an actual palpable sense of heart and emotion conveyed throughout this release.
One such aid in that goal are the rare appearances of female vocal hums which inject a profound emotional gravitas. Still, being a primarily instrumental affair it’s only fitting that the group musically spice things up; and the inclusion of some ethnic percussion does exactly that.
At its core T.R.A.M. may be a passion project, but the heart isn’t the bands only muse. A moderate amount of cerebral restraint and a general focus of locking down a groove, however transcendental as it may be, are what keep the project from devolving into a tiresome jam session.
There are actual songs underneath all the texture, snarly riffs and funky counter rhythms. Yes a few extended squelches from the horns (among others) can get out of hand at times; but it usually doesn’t take long for order to be restored.
On the merit of their technical ability alone T.R.A.M. have made a lasting impression. As the EP’s title seems to suggest, music is indeed a universal language. Sure it won’t convert the flatbrim hordes to Coltrane; but it may just broaden some horizons and that in itself is quite the feat.
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