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Published: 2006/10/24
by Glenn Alexander

Ton These – RAQ

Harmonized Records 028

RAQ positively embodies the aesthetic of a rising jamband about as
good as any other outfit does. Quirky lyrics, playful arrangements,
stellar musicianship, and a penchant for both abstract and
straightforward interpretations of rock music's formulas all show up
here on the band's latest, and arguably their most accomplished and
focused release. Expertly produced and recorded at The Barn in
Vermont under the ears of Jared Slomoff and Pete Carini, Ton
These is a well crafted rock fusion record whose production is
never weightier than its content. The content's baggage could have
benefited from weightier destinations, however.

The band hits the mark throughout the album, executing the songs with
perfection and in-the-moment magic, but the question still remains as
to what the band is aiming for. They are a self-described "high
performance rock and roll" band. If the purpose here is to wow with
precision, talent, and an earnestness to impress, they do that rather
consistently. Funk and pop elements are the main fusion of the rock
music they play, but there is indeed an invisible element present
here, working it's hand into the music, making sure the band never
moves too deeply into gimmickry. The gimmick is close enough to the
surface to remind us throughout that this is indeed a band struggling
to break free from its influences and frequent comparisons to jam
giants Phish and moe..

Weird and heavy funk rock workouts of "Bootch Magoo" and "Botz" are
bong-ready bits made for the stage, which are tackled with ample
synths, crunchy guitar and absurdist lyrics. The piano-heavy and
up-tempo gloom of "Glimpse" shows a softer belly of the band, while
the album's most accomplished piece, the brilliant "Said and Done"
manages to capture everything that works with RAQ, heavy free-flowing
energy, technical and emotional execution both understated and
over-the-top, and lyrics that are well-grounded in both abstractions
and more recognizable elements.

The bluesy roadhouse romp of "Tumbling Down" proves, with a mid-song
interlude, that Phish are still an influence in the band's
songcrafting. In the middle of this rocking number, "You Enjoy Myself"
unmistakably surfaces for two measures, adding an interesting twist to a
straight-forward song. It works for the song, maybe not for the band.

Lyrically, RAQ treads ground that has been scraped over pretty
thoroughly, in the jamband universe and beyond, which is not to say it
gets in the way of the enjoying the album. There is a major difference
between odd lyrics that stir the imagination and odd lyrics that are
just odd, and instead, leave you stumped and mostly empty. The
distinction lies in imagery that can promote a stirring of a listener's
mind, and the imagery that rests firmly in the song and doesn't seek
to journey out from there. Sometimes, words have no where to go but in
one ear and out the other. With RAQ, the emotions are largely in the

The guitar playing is without question the most formidable element of
this album. Chris Michetti is a smart player. Incredibly versatile, he
can be either virtuosic or creatively and effectively pragmatic, both
good tools to have. The playing brings to mind a whole list of great
guitarist (most noticeably Anastasio, but not to a fault). This works
in the band's favor quite well, because every song's limitations are
laid to rest during the guitarist's exceedingly nimble and emotional
workouts. He creates melodies instantaneously and fashions together
expert technical workouts with more soulful licks in a way that lifts
the songs above their trappings, if only temporarily. The other
bandmates are no slouches, by any means. Stoop's keyboard playing is
versatile and effective and plays right up front in the album's mix,
dominating a number of tracks ("Glimpse," the Ben Folds-like "Forget
Me Not" ). The rhythm section is, by design, the least controversial
aspect of the music, but equally as impressive as the guitar work,
when put into their own context. They make the foundation with just
enough creativity and prowess to remind they are there, without being

If moe. or Phish are great examples of where rock music, improv and
lyrical eccentricities coalesce into something larger than the sum of
their parts, then RAQ's Ton These suggests a step towards
managing that very tricky juggling act. It succeeds on a host of
levels advanced arrangements, clever interplay between the
musicians, and a dedication to cultivating raw energy through talent
and a purpose to impress. While RAQ have created an album enviable to
most jambands, they haven't yet combined their talents in such a way
as to become larger than their parts. The "fifth member," which has
been described as being in the live shows, is just not here on the
album. They are a young band, so this is no surprise. Jambands are
typically late-bloomers with making great records. If they stick
around, they just might get there. Overall though, a hell of an
accomplishment for this young band.

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