Instrumental Quarter comes roaring straight outta Saluzzo, Italy, offering an eclectic album of (wait for it) instrumental tracks that fit somewhere between the mellow chordal jazz of Bill Frisell and the minimalism of Mono or Sigur Ros. Post-rock without the bombast. These four guys have done their homework, creating a cinematic atmosphere that sounds straight out of North America’s minimalist hotbeds. (Not coincidentally, the CD includes four videos the band has created for live performances.)
There are distinct patterns of change on Traffic Jam, an almost seasonal difference on each of the disc’s halves. The album’s beginning features a dedicated languidness, with the shimmering Frisell tones of “Walking to the 5th” and the incongruously titled “Lost on My Desk,” an orderly acoustic guitar contemplation backed by a distant violin and wispy cymbals. The album’s first half is an exploration of similar themes, with little harmonic or dynamic variation. It is easy listening, with a spaciousness evoking fog around a mountain range.
Things loosen up considerably by “B&W Movie Set,” as Gabriele Grosso’s two-note bass line mopes behind guitarist Paride Lanciani’s first foray away from textual chords into riffs and behind Luca Bleu’s drums, which appear in spacey looming splashes and rolls. Out of nowhere, the band launches into a heavy staccato measure, only to return just as quickly to the serene cosmos from whence it came. This single moment signals the shift in intensity over the album’s remaining five tracks; Lanciani increasingly shelves the acoustic guitar in favor of repeated electric lines found in contemporary post-rock. On “Illinois Breakfast II,” tranquil instrumental passages are interrupted by staccato breaks, then return to the mellow acoustic overdubbed finger picking and Davide Areondo’s leisurely violin bowing that marked the album’s entire first half. Dissonance becomes a fifth band member during the second half, an intriguing stylistic maneuver seemingly intended to prove the band makes more than effortlessly approachable easy-listening music.
Traffic Jam is introspective music, to be sure, a disc of intelligent background tunes that can jump up with surprising passages before the listener totally zones out. There’s a lot of emotion at work here, but the sentiment is complex, not readily identifiable. It’s a worthy soundtrack for a sunset drive with someone you can share comfortable silence with.
“Lost on My Desk” MP3