T.R.A.M. - Lingua Franca

T.R.A.M. just released the first installment of a video series in which the band members talk about how T.R.A.M. came together. The video is really interesting, and you should definitely watch it after the jump.

But what I really want to say here is this: holy shit you guys, have you heard the T.R.A.M. record Lingua Franca?? It’s reeeeaaaallly, really good! I listened to it all the way through probably five times the first weekend I had my advance copy, and it just kept unraveling new strands of aural awesomeness each time through, coming apart like the layers of an onion.

And here’s where I might lose a lot of people: I actually like Lingua Franca more than I like Animals as Leaders’ latest, Weightless.

Here’s what I said when I reviewed Weightless back in November:

… it’s not that I necessarily wanted AAL 2.0 (although I probably would’ve been perfectly content with that), but the songs on Weightless don’t seem to have the same sticking power as those on the self-titled record did. There’s plenty to appreciate in the way of dazzling musicianship, and I commend Tosin for making a risky but ultimately smart career move by distancing himself from “djent,” but this album just doesn’t seem as cohesive as its predecessor.

In hindsight, and from what Tosin told me when I interviewed him last month, maybe part of the problem is that Tosin felt a little pressure to write “in the style of” Animals as Leaders instead of expressing what he’d truly like to be writing and playing:

Once your band is at a certain point of awareness, there comes this weird sort of obligation to write music that will continue to keep those same fans interested for the same reason, but it can get kind of weird as far as your creative direction is concerned. You feel like like you don’t have total freedom and you have an obligation to your listener. With T.R.A.M. it was cool because no one had heard the stuff and I feel like it’s a different part of my musical mind, you know? I felt like I had a little more freedom; there isn’t any flute in Animals as Leaders but there’s bass clarinet and flute in T.R.A.M. I think that’s pretty cool.

When I listen to Lingua Franca, I feel that freedom of expression in what’s being played and how it’s being played. There’s no need to “metallize it” (Tosin’s phrase for turning any riff or idea into a metal one suitable for AAL), either sonically or compositionally, and the result is something that just feels a lot more compelling, interesting and fresh to me than anything on Weightless. Yes, it’s also less metal — way less — but that’s perfectly ok with me; these songs are incredibly engaging whether there’s distortion on the guitars all the time or not. The other musicians involved also bring a lot to the table, both in terms of what you here (instrumentation) and what you don’t (writing), and the results are positively spell-binding. They’re also pushing boundaries and begging the question as to what it actually means for something to be considered “metal.” Lingua Franca is essentially a jazz record that should be completely palatable to anyone in the instrumental metal community with the patience to give it a chance.

In short: T.R.A.M.’s debut record Lingua Franca is fucking stellar. Do yourself a favor and get it now.

(five out of five horns)


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