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2011/05/25 / monteurhulot

EP // Trails – Territorial

It’s difficult for me to talk (or think) about this debut from Bay Area duo Trails without invoking another pair, Kings of Convenience. Both acts have a sound much centered around acoustic guitar, and both lean towards Bossa Nova. Trails acknowledges this explicitly, and Territorial includes a straight Bossa number, “Bimbom;” I’m not sure if the Kings of Convenience would consider themselves a Bossa Nova act, but even if they don’t claim inspiration from the Brazilian form of the genre, in a way they would still remain so, as a group that attempts to transpose ebullient, rhythmic popular music into an intimate, more subdued acoustic space.

Kings of Convenience create art which is in many ways very distant: their records have a precise, almost clinical sound shared by Erlend Øye’s other work, and their lyrics, form either lonesome narratives or removed lectures: the other parties are more spoken to than spoken with. Trails, on the other hand, are warmer, looser, more enveloping, more intimate in address. No love songs here, exactly, but certainly poetic ruminations on interpersonal relationships, and “Bimbom” has perfect lyrics for a song in which for Anglo-Americans tackled untempered Bossa Nova. For a group with just a guitarist and a drummer/percussionist, the sound is impressively lush; it fits well with those American “indie pop” groups of the aughts who tended to the acoustic (what one could call “post-freak-folk” if that wasn’t incredibly stupid) but doesn’t invoke anyone in particular. I spent days searching favorite records of past years trying to find a group that I was sure Trails reminded me of, but couldn’t pin down any close antecedents: an excellent sign that an artist has fully absorbed their influences and created something particular. Territorial is certainly not a singer-songwriter affair with a drummer added; “Dance Gold” is a bouncy number with a break down like Thomas Mapfumo playing the Dembow riddim, “In Between” features percussive crescendo in its choruses, and then there is the cover of Miike Snow’s “Animal,” which, with a touch of electric guitar, far surpasses the orignal’s energy and feeling.

All in all? Compulsively listenable. Free.

t.

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