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Ballroom Review

by Johnny Loftus

Trapist's Ballroom begins in the space between, hesitating over the plucked acoustic notes that form a tightrope for Martin Brandlmayr's fits'n'starts percussion. The opener, "Time Axis Manipulation, Pt. 1," continues then, repeatedly folding warm guitar, bass, and drum improv into mildly unsettling synthesized drone for 12-plus minutes. After sketching the fragments of a blues riff, "Time Axis Manipulation"'s second portion puts a blurping programming rig in the room and adds a whining synthesizer. The whole mess nearly becomes something abstractly electronic before it's consumed by a few minutes of mounting ambient hiss, which seems to have been the point all along. It's that instance when pure tone overtakes interactive playing that Trapist is fascinated with on Ballroom (issued through likely candidate Thrill Jockey). "Observations Took Place" allows its quiet urgency to lapse under a color bar hum, and the lengthy "For All the Time Spent in This Room" lets the notes of its Tortoise-ish avant jazz climax sustain and fragment into looped, amusical nodes. The album ends with a reverse of its beginning, as guitarist Martin Siewert analyzes the stillness between his strums. This is Trapist's artful trick. The Austrian combo roots -- or uproots, as it were -- its music in improvisation and experimentalism, but always keeps its compositional rubber band tensile and invigorating.

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