(Austin Weber reviews the new sophomore album by Trioscapes, which is being released today by Metal Blade Records.)
Music that lies at the intersection of jazz and metal has always interested me. The first Trioscapes album that came out not long ago in 2012, called Separate Realities, certainly scratched that itch. What excited me the most about the record was that it certainly seemed like only the beginning of where they could go with their sound, if they followed their heads.
While many are familiar with them as the side-project of Between The Buried And Me bassist Dan Briggs, saxophonist/flute player Walter Fancourt (ex-Mars Volta) and drummer/electronics artist Matt Lynch deserve just as much credit.
When Separate Realities was released, I immensely enjoyed it — but the band have experienced an exponential growth in their sound on Digital Dream Sequence. The leap into larger uncharted waters on the new record is simultaneously jaw-dropping and smile-inducing. They may be the same band toying with the same ideas, but the expanded and more unconventional depths of these new compositions gives the band a fuller, more adventurous sound than they previously exhibited.
Part of this is due to the album’s jam-like tracks, which cycle through numerous themes, tempos, and textures to create a true union between jazz and metal in a deep way. In creating this unusually strong integration, Trioscapes thrive on their unconventional lineup, as they have no guitar in their music, nor vocals. The focus instead is on sax/flute, bass guitar, and drums. Since they perform sans guitar, the sax and bass take on very prominent roles, sometimes playing a flurry of notes in a way similar to a guitar solo or guitar leads.
Similarly, the bass often plays the role of the rhythm guitar, constructing the palette on which the other players layer their sounds. The loose, largely jazz-style drumming kicks out nice and smooth, providing a constant foundation of lithe beats that serve as the cohesive glue holding together the hard-to-contain bass and sax performances.
There is little point in trying to discuss Digital Dream Sequence track by track; it simply has to be experienced and breathed in, given a chance to sink in. Sure, it’s not metal most of the time, but when it pops up, as on the drone-y sax with reverb midway on tribal-obsessed closer “The Jungle”, it hits hard and powerfully.
Another memorable metal moment comes with the headbangable bass groove that stomps around on “Hysteria”, a track that at times brings to mind early Mr. Bungle, hitting the perfect blend between weird and wonderful.
Trioscapes’ forte lies in extended instrumental, fusion-y prog meets periods of heaviness. Think Return To Forever meets Mahavishnu with some metal and prog rock trimmings. Their music is very elastic, the band using the extended jam passages to build even greater variety as they switch to new parts at a dizzying pace. The textural shifts from smooth jazz sounds to skronkier emissions and metallic grooves are impeccably done.
Digital Dream Sequence is a complicated beast, yet never needlessly so. It’s highly engrossing music — I find myself lost in the songs, as well as in the performances of each individual player. The interplay and independence among the members stacks up to make a cornucopia of wild rhythms, head-bobbing grooves, and beautiful melodies. While the results will appeal more to an adventurous fusion or jazz crowd, there is enough metal present in glimpses for those metalheads who are open-minded enough to dive in.
I never think of upcoming albums as potential this or that, but I have to say Digital Dream Sequence is my favorite unexpected release of the year.
Trioscapes’ Digital Dream Sequence can be ordered here.