Review Summary: It takes genuine skill to create music this pleasing, but T.R.A.M. pull it off on one of the finest debuts in a long time.
I didn't know what to expect when first listening to T.R.A.M. Combining members of The Mars Volta
, Animals As Leaders
and Suicidal Tendencies
, T.R.A.M. can be considered a supergroup of sorts, but, with each of them having significantly different musical backgrounds, I was certainly unsure of what to see coming upon listening to Lingua Franca for the first time.
The moment the music flowed through my ears, I was pleasantly surprised. Each member may have come from rock-orientated backgrounds, T.R.A.M. presents us with a sort of experimental, progressive jazz sound. It wasn't what I was expecting, but that just made the moment of truth so much more pleasing. The opening track 'Seven Ways to Sunday' introduces you to T.R.A.M.s classy, stand-out sound, complete with impressive trade-off soloing.
The record comes at all angles with its experimental jazz approach. 'Hollywood Swinging' is more straightforward, and, as the name suggests, has much more swing to it than the rest of the songs. On the other hand, the intro to 7-minute extravaganza 'Haas Kicker' is peaceful bliss. Every song will have something fresh and interesting hidden somewhere throughout.
What makes Lingua Franca so sensational is the instrumental skill on here. All instruments flawlessly bond together to make one flowing sound that can be a genuine pleasure to the ears. It's no surprise, given the members heritage, but the technicality and raw talent on each instrument is truly immense. They have taken their skills and worked together to put them in a completely different situation to what they're used to, and the results come together fantastically.
So, how does Lingua Franca lose marks? The most apparent problem is the length. Clocking in at only 29 minutes, T.R.A.M.s debut feels more like a big EP rather than a full-length album. It's a shame; I would have gladly waited longer for the release of a lengthier album. Once the 29 minutes is up, there is an overwhelming disappointment that, for now at least, the experience is over. Another slight problem is that, at times, the instruments seem to wander around aimlessly, the structure seems to completely blur with random clarinet or trumpet wailings. This, however, is not that much of a problem, since by this point I was so mesmerised by the instrumentation that I actually got caught up in these sections.
Before Lingua Franca, I had never sat down and listened to a jazz album with a sense of seriousness. T.R.A.M. have changed that, by crafting together a true gem of an album. There are problems, particularly the unfortunate length, however these aren't problems that completely collapse the music. Lingua Franca has been so intricately made and expertly pulled off, it is music in its purest, most pleasing form.