Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

by Tram
     
 

Heavy Black Frame was so intimate that it felt much of the time like it might fall apart if not for the glistening, almost gluey guitar work, or drift off further into its stony dream. In many ways, Frequently Asked Questions is more of what made that first album such a stunning, woozy oasis. Paul Anderson's sullen vocals are in part a continuation of…  See more details below

Overview

Heavy Black Frame was so intimate that it felt much of the time like it might fall apart if not for the glistening, almost gluey guitar work, or drift off further into its stony dream. In many ways, Frequently Asked Questions is more of what made that first album such a stunning, woozy oasis. Paul Anderson's sullen vocals are in part a continuation of the choked romanticism of Britain's '80s new romantic wave, while his snaking guitar lines frequently sound like the sonic equivalent of watching the rain roll down windows. Nick Avery throws out a spray of somnolent and half-hallucinated beats -- heavy on the ride cymbal -- that virtually disappear into the ether before your ear can catch up to them, and the duo's songs, suitably, are all about uncertainty, loneliness, and loss. It is not quite space rock, not quite slow-motion country, not folk-rock, and not exactly film music. It is sort of all those things, spacy and cinematic with a slumbering lope. But whereas the debut was essentially a lo-fi affair -- it was never remotely barren or desolate, but it did have a limited palette and range -- Frequently Asked Questions is a thrilling progression for Tram, full of subtle but stirring leaps. Following the debut, Tram developed into a quintet for touring purposes, and some of that experience as a full-bodied combo is brought to bear on the music, particularly in the way of lushness. Anderson and Avery are still the primary players, but, with the addition of a host of supporting musicians, they explore new timbres and textures throughout the album, especially orchestral ones. The disappointment inherent in "Giving Up" is underscored more authoritatively than it could have been on the debut by a mournful cello and then, to emphasize the melancholy, bolstered by muted trumpets. Violins envelope "Yes but for How Long" as surely as the song's wavering insecurity. And their cover of Tim Buckley's "Once I Was," produced by John Parish at Cocteau Twins' studio and originally featured on the Buckley tribute album, Sing a Song for You, fills out a bare-boned piano-drums framework with graceful touches of harmonica, organ, and Parish's slide guitar. Other than the latter song, the album was produced in the duo's own upgraded 16-track digital home studio, which accounts for the other advances in their sound. Tram had no prior experience with much of the new software and equipment. A large portion of the time spent recording the album was spent just trying to figure out how to use the equipment, thus the album title and the lovely electronic flourishes that pop up at times, such as the omnipresent synthesizer that runs ominously through "He Walks Alone" or the sequenced effects that badger the pretty acoustic "Folk" until it explodes with an unexpected atonal saxophone solo. It is just such surprises that make Frequently Asked Questions such an exquisite album, and a step up from Heavy Black Frame, which itself made aching melodicism sound like the most beautiful place on earth.

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Product Details

Release Date:
02/06/2001
Label:
Jet Set Records
UPC:
0604978003522
catalogNumber:
780035

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