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On a Lake of Dead Trees
Artist: Traindodge 
Label: Ascetic Records and No Karma Recordings
Tracks: 12 / 57:47 min

Sample: “Five Forks”

If Albert Einstein were alive today, Traindodge’s On a Lake of Dead Trees is the album he would be relaxing too.  It is a rare feat—a kind you can engage and bang your head to or just sit back and let it massage your mind.

On a Lake of Dead Trees is exactly what one expects from Traindodge—bass-driven math-rock constructions, furious strumming, infinite sustains, pleading vocals and cymbal-heavy drumming.  This album, however, represents the Norman, Okla., band’s dissertation from the Robert Fripp School of Songwriting.  Fewer and fewer songs contain observable verse-chorus distinctions, as Traindodge is choosing more frequently to intersperse words designed to invoke the feel of the song rather than just make statements.

More progressive than ever, Traindodge takes this opportunity to place more sonic diversity within a single track than most artists have on an entire album (or even their careers in some cases).  Somehow they manage this while still retaining the song’s feel all the way through.  A great example of this is “Curtain Call,” which features a number of slow-downs, build-ups, and subtle combinations and recombinations of the instruments, alternating punctuation with strumming so fast it nearly turns into emo.  Heck, what am I saying?  Every song on this album is like that!  But that’s just the stylistic unity you find in Traindodge.  Each song still contributes its own unique vibe.

“Curtain Call” does, however, seem to have the least abstruse lyrics:

I’m obliged to ask you
Because we are not going the same way
It’s this introduction in the final stage
We are not going the same way.
My take is that it’s about a conversationally challenged couple, one of whom realizes it’s time to break it off.  But then Traindodge lyricist Jason Smith tries to write so the listener can pull out a number of interpretations (See interview this issue).  Most of the other lyrics are so recondite and poetic that I can’t even attempt an interpretation.  Not that this is bad.  Even within a verse, one word might be several bars away from the next, multiplying its evocative value.  Truly some innovative work being done by these guys.

On a Lake of Dead Trees is an album worth getting.  If there’s any reason for complaint, it’s that most of these songs (taken individually) would have fit perfectly on their last full album, About Tomorrow’s Mileage.  But as good as that album was, I’m not complaining.

Dan Singleton 4/29/2002



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