Review: T.R.A.M.-“Lingua Franca”

By Lane Oliver

What do you get when you combine Animals as Leaders guitarists Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes with The Mars Volta saxophonist Adrian Terrazas and Suicidal Tendencies’ drummer Eric Moore? You get the progressive rock/jazz fusion hybrid T.R.A.M. (Terrazas. Reyes. Abasi. Moore). When this project was first announced early last year, naturally as an AAL fan I became excited. But when footage and songs start surfacing on the web I was very surprised at the band’s sound. In February of this year, T.R.A.M. gave us their debut EP Lingua Franca. I suspect hardcore fans of Animals as Leaders and the other bands mentioned would be disappointed in this release. I, however, was not.

As I said above, T.R.A.M. combines progressive rock with strong elements of jazz fusion. Every element of the bands comprising this outfit, for the most part, is not present. Instead you get a fresh and excited sounding product. The EP begins with low end guitar rumbling to simulate bass accompanied by jaw dropping sax work by Terrazas on “Seven Ways Till Sunday”. This EP is pretty much Terrazas’ time to shine as he shows off his virtuosic woodwind skills that at times, even over shadows Tosin’s gorgeously complex jazz solos. Speaking of complexity, this EP just gets more and more complex as it goes on. “Consider Yourself Judged” begins with this flurry of saxophones, clarinets, and flutes that when combined with the bass like grumbling riffs of Tosin and Javier and the conflicting beats of Eric sounds like a pure cacophony of sound. This song is full, and a lot of the album, are full of conflicting melodies and sections that make it difficult to pick out one melodic line out of a dozen. But the band is not all “hey look what I can do” showboating. Lingua Franca also has a lot of nice melodic and chill moments. Take “HAAS Kicker”, which is a seven minute free form jazz beast that is beautifully complex and gives each member of the band a chance to shine. “Inverted Ballad” is a nice little chill song that features simple jazz chord phrasing with minimal sax accompaniment and is a nice relaxing break from the jazz freak out of the rest of the EP. One more thing to mention that made this EP special is the inclusion of sultry female hums on nearly every track. The soft, gentle female vocals combined with everything else make T.R.A.M.’s music utterly captivating. It’s without a question that these guys are talented.

A problem I had with this release however is that Terrazas sax work seemed to overpower everyone else. Don’t get me wrong, Adrian’s sax skills are just plain out of this world, but at times (near the end of “Seven Ways Till Sunday”) his sax playing overshadows some of Tosin’s guitar work; which makes Tosin’s brighter guitar moments a little hard to hear.

But other than that little nitpicky thing, this EP is a very promising start for T.R.A.M. You won’t find any Animal as Leaders chugs on here but what you will find may surprise you. If you like any of the bands T.R.A.M. shares members with or if you dig a little jazz fusion then I suggest you give T.R.A.M. a shot. What do you guys think?

Rating: 8/10

Label: Sumerian

Release Date: February 28th, 2012

Favorite Tracks: “Seven Ways Till Sunday”, “Endeavor”, and “HAAS Kicker”.

For Fans Of: The Mars Volta, The Seatbelts, and Animals as Leaders

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