Why does it always feel like that, the more technical and complex the band/music, the harder it is for me write about them? I mean, I shortchanged Porcupine Tree’s Deadwing with less than 350 words, but have used twice that many to describe albums far less deserving of the ink. Thus my decision to tackle the sophomore effort from Trioscapes was almost immediately questionable. It’s not like I didn’t know what I was in for. I loved their debut Separate Realities and it would have placed high on my best-of list for 2012 had I actually done one. Since then, the only people I’ve heard talk about Trioscapes are me and the Metal Blade Records PR department, so I figured it was time to do my part to get the name out there.
Trioscapes is the brain child of Between the Buried and Me bassist Dan Briggs. What started as a notion to work on an interpretation of a Mahavishnu Orchestra song with saxophonist/flautist Walter Fancourt and drummer Matt Lynch quickly grew to include original compositions for a one-off live show, and culminated in the aforementioned full-length album. Separate Realities would go on to peak at #9 and #12 on Billboard’s Traditional and Current Jazz charts, respectively. Not too shabby.
So exactly what happens when you take the progressive metalcore stylings of BTBAM, forgo guitars, keyboards, and vocals in favor of a saxophonist, and say let’s jam? Wait…I think I just gave it away. Yes, in the simplest of terms, you get instrumental progressive metal with heavy amounts of saxophone wailings and bass noodlings instead of extended guitar solos and synth runs. Yet, the music they create feels like so much more than that.
I mean, I’ll be damned if I can articulate that point any further, but otherwise…
OK, I’ll give it a shot.
The music is incredibly unique in that it could only be created with these types of musicians in this type of configuration. It’s not like John Petrucci could stroll into the studio, lay down some tracks, ask Fancourt to play it back on his tenor sax, and have it be the same. The leads had to be written – or improvised – by a sax player, for a sax player. By a similar token, the bass is just as much a lead instrument, which probably isn’t all that surprising given the instrumental nature. Still…wow. When he isn’t laying down big fat grooves for Fancourt to play over, Briggs absolutely plays the hell out of that thing; slapping, slashing, and strumming into a pure frenzy of bottom-end noise. Finally, there is the drumming of Lynch. To these ears, it largely gets lost in the mix, which may or may not be the point. The saxophone and bass are so demanding of one’s attention, such the focal point of the music, that the drums are easy to overlook. But that isn’t to say they are dull and boring, far from it. They are absolutely the backbone of the beast that is Trioscapes. Although he brings his own style and flourish to the mix, he is the constant amidst the beautiful cacophony, a steady, rhythmic presence that allows the other instruments to roam freely over the soundscape. Without it, this would just be a couple of wankers attempting to out-ejaculate each other.
With that lovely thought, I will wrap this up. Anyone who is into challenging, progressive music should give Trioscapes a listen or twenty; fans of Norway’s Shining are particularly encouraged. This has about as much to do with BTBAM as John Tesh does, so you needn’t worry if they’re not your thing. They really aren’t mine, either. Digital Dream Sequence. Check it out. It’s the shit. All the hip cats are doing it.