Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Trunks - On The Roof


It had been a long, arduous flight back home from France.  I nearly jumped for joy when the pilot informed us that the plane had begun its final descent into JFK International Airport.  Thankfully I was sitting in a window seat where nothing stopped me from taking in the landscape rolling rapidly by below me.  The sight of all of those buildings and bustling traffic was the perfect remedy to the endless blue ocean I had been observing for the last several hours.  I had almost adjusted to the busy cityscape when all of a sudden one massive rooftop demanded my full attention.

This was no regular rooftop.  The roof in effect was a massive billboard that a person would only be able to see from an airplane.  That was interesting in itself, but what most captured my attention was the vague advertisement on display.  The roof was painted to resemble the French flag.  In the middle of the flag was the word Trunks, all caps, with ‘On The Roof’ painted directly below it.  That was all.  There was nothing else!?!  What in the world was this advertising?  My mind immediately went to work reviewing the evidence and coming up with possible answers to this rooftop riddle.

Having spent the past two weeks in France, I felt I should have some inkling as to what this mysterious sign indicated.  I’d immersed myself in every aspect of French culture that I could during my stay.  Too bad I apparently lack the necessary mental faculties to quickly siphon through my memories for relevant clues.  With my memories leading to a dead end I decided to simply brainstorm a reasonable explanation.  What could Trunks be?

Well, the rooftop was an advertisement.  What would someone want to advertise related to the word Trunks?  A car?  I don’t believe Renault or Peugeot Citroen were ready to make any significant product introductions in New York.  Also, what would a car be doing ‘On The Roof’?  Didn’t add up.  Wait!  Paris is known for its fashion.  Maybe Dior or Jean Paul Gaultier was preparing to introduce a new line of swim apparel in the city.  But why introduce swimwear during the late Fall, early Winter?  They certainly wouldn’t model swimsuits ‘On The Roof’ exposed to the elements on a cold blustery day. 

Perhaps the advertisement was for a new French rooftop restaurant?  No, I was confident there was no new chef named Trunks, and if it was for a restaurant there was no reason to advertise to airline passengers.  After all, they would likely be leaving the city before they had the opportunity to eat there.  My last guess was admittedly a bit left of center.  As everyone knows, there are plenty of museums in New York.  It might be an advertisement for a new exhibit of exotic Trunks from trees deep inside the Forest of Tronçais.  Yeah, you’re right.  That’s just silly. 

I disembarked from the plane and collected my luggage from the carousel.  A taxi took me home.  When I got there what did I do first?  Did I unpack?  Absolutely not!  I turned on the computer and Google searched Trunks coupled with ‘On The Roof’.  Lo and behold.  The answer to the mystery was far more interesting than anything I dreamed up.  Trunks was a band!

That’s right waveriders.  Trunks is a French band from the city of Rennes.  I recently discovered their great new album On The Roof, and I think everyone deserves to know about this sonic smorgasbord.  The group is five members strong.  Régis Boulard plays the drums, Stéphane Fromentin and Florian Marzano both play guitar, Daniel Paboeuf adds all kinds of flavor on saxophone, and last but not least Laetitia Shériff handles bass, guitar, and vocals when called upon.  Based on their instrumental makeup can you guess what they sound like?

If you said…you know what, no matter what answer you came up with it would only hint at the full auditory experience on offer here.  The music is jazzy.  The music is funky.  It’s artsy.  Sometimes it rocks out.  Other times it’s delicate.  Throw in some seriously freaked-out passages and the portrait is as complete as I can make it using words alone.  Quick side note; I absolutely love the fact that the members of Trunks don’t consider themselves a band, but ‘more an artistic collaboration’.  Each musician clearly brings their own approach to the table, and the resulting musical mish-mash is delightful!

On The Roof is composed of nine songs.  Nine fantastic songs!  In an effort to further clarify Trunks’ sound I’m going to delve into a few of them and explain what groups I’m reminded of while listening.  The second song on the album “Screaming Idiots” is fast, noisy, and slightly repetitive (in a good way).  It always brings to mind Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade.  “Clever White Youth” is a playful romp heavily influenced by New Orleans style jazz and funk.  This song could easily be on the next Galactic album.  “Who’s My Favorite” can be split into two halves.  During the first half the whole band works in unison to stomp out a powerful line of descending notes with the saxophone occasionally going off on a tangent.  Everything changes half way through however when the song tempo picks up substantially, vocals kick in, and the band channels their inner Gang Of Four.  Standout track “Blue Dot” regularly draws favorable comparisons in my mind to early King Crimson.  But what about the other tracks I can’t quite pigeonhole?

Album opener “Harfiscury” is a mid-tempo groove machine with a wonderfully strong Middle-Eastern vibe.  “Derby” starts peacefully and over its running time gradually builds and crescendos to an immensely satisfying conclusion.  Title track “On The Roof” feels somewhat otherworldly thanks mainly to Ms. Sheriff’s haunting vocals and interesting bass lines.  If by any chance you’ve had a tough day take a listen to closing track “First Train Home” and let your worries melt away behind the easygoing melody lines played by the guitars and the dulcet tones of the saxophone.  Peace will be with you.

Waveriders, On The Roof is one terrific listening experience!  To those of you looking for albums that take the listener on a wild, unpredictable ride I say listen up.  There is a new vacation destination accessible through your music player of choice.  Trunks will serve as your travel agent, hotel manager, and tour guide.  Pick up On The Roof today.  Experiences like this one are too good to pass up!

--Penfold

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