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Trapist Ballroom Review

Album. Released 2004.  

BBC Review

Second album from low voltage improv power trio, this time on the excellent Thrill...

Peter Marsh 2003

Trapist's debut album became one of my most played records of last year.At best a minimal experience,it was a bit like Charlie Haden, Paul Motian and Ry Cooder free improvising in a roomful of faulty electronic equipment while under mild sedation.This time round, they're signed up to the consistently interesting Thrill Jockey imprint - a move which might win them more of an audience. Let's hope so, because this trio (are for my money) one of the most individual and rewarding bands around at the moment.

Ballroom is a more expansive beast than its predecessor; the core guitar/bass/drums line up has been augmented with lashings of plaintive analogue synths, gobs of dirty digital distortions and unobtrusive studio trickery. The result is aluscious, mobile soundscape, capable of ambient purr or abrasive noisebursts.They groove more too, with drummer Martin Brandlmayr and double bassist Joe Williamson locking into spare, insistent pulses. The feel is more compositional, more structured than before.Whether that's a result of predetermined structures or editing and overdubbing is neither here nor there, but what Trapist have managed is the trick of sounding not really like anyone else but themselves.

This is pretty much entirely down to the trio's feel for texture. Even at their most frenetic, there's a real sense that every sound is worked on and thought about before it's allowed to escape the instrument. Brandlmayr's gift for teasinga huge range of textures from his kit is augmented by subtle electronic shadings.Meanwhile Martin Siewert's deliberate, poised guitars (including some delicious lap and pedal steel work) weave resonant, slightly mournful lines, sometimes looped or fed through unstable treatments that threaten to rip his thoughtful melodics apart.

Ballroom may be a cerebral experience, but there's a deep (but ungraspable) emotional undertow beneath its shifting sonics. Poignant, confrontational, blissful and at 48 minutes, too short...

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