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Monday, November 20, 2017 
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+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
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Trapist
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Ballroom
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True to their spirit of improvisation, this Viennese trio came up with a name for themselves only after they first played live together, a performance recorded for posterity as their debut. Originally named Trappist, after the monastic order, they then dropped a "p" alluding to the German for trapeze, "Trapez." And you could say that Ballroom, the second album from Trapist, reflects both these etymologies.

There's certainly a kind of austerity present, a sense of restraint and a willingness to allow silence to impinge on the music. But also there's an audacious side, a demonstrative spontaneity requiring a sense of balance and a willingness to stretch out. The band originally recorded themselves playing live improvisations during a single studio session. Once they had this raw material, they then went to work on it with additional overdubs and studio embellishments. The results are an intriguing, inspired mixture of organic expression and unfettered exploration, with the core musical lineup of drums, double-bass and guitar augmented by synthesizers and electronics.

Beginning with the two-part "Time Axis Manipulation," the sound is acoustic, tentative, with small clusters of notes from guitarist Martin Siewert answered by Martin Brandlmayr's subtle crescendos of percussion. The impression is of an intuitive musical flow that becomes only gradually more substantial. There are subtle shifts in emphasis between loose, almost blunt improvisation and melodic themes, bolstered by ambient machine noise. Part two shifts towards a more angular bassline and a more prominent synthesizer presence before fading to a spectral hiss and crackle, which in turn builds in volume to a seismic electronic rumble before slowly dissipating.

"Observations Took Place" begins with an electronic tone, extended to a drone, accompanied by acoustic bass and a snappy snare drum. A synthesizer melody is overlaid, creating an overall sound that seems to hover, but also waver and slowly mutate. Despite a greater emphasis on rhythm from the outset, there's still room for a certain openness, with a midway fade into an abstract hum and chirruping electronica.

"The Meaning of Flowers" has hollow-sounding tom-tom fills and, with the emphasis on Joe Williamson's supple double-bass, it sounds more overtly jazz-based. This understated feel of gently ascending rhythms stresses the band's acoustic side and contrasts with the more strident experimentation on the lengthy closing track, "For All the Time Spent in This Room." Here the fragmentary electronica seems to build to a sense of urgency, stumbling over itself in collisions of noise. Underneath this layer are subtle tonal shifts in bass and atmospheric keyboards. There's a loose feel with a sense of direction gradually becoming clearer as the disparate parts merge dramatically. It reaches a kind of plateau, dominated by a twanging guitar melody and loping bassline and piercing depth-charge synth sounds. And then, as if perched trembling on a summit, the sound shivers, exposed before dispersing into fragmentary ruptures of looped noise edits. Finally the music comes full circle, back to the sound of an unaccompanied acoustic guitar.

An intersection between austere, acoustic improv and oblique electronica, the music on Ballroom isn't easy to categorize, but its protean drift and flow reveals a keen sense of self-driven logic that's vividly expressed.


by Tom Ridge




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