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Published: 2009/03/24
by Fady Khalil

Tree Trunk Airplanes – SoundRabbit


What exactly is a SoundRabbit? Perhaps the Boulder based not-quite-jamband is still defining that considering their short, productive history. Since their 2007 debut album, the four-piece has gigged a-plenty, and worked on their PBS-like model for a publicly supported band. With their sophmore effort, Tree Trunk Airplanes, the band could well multiply their reach exponentially.

The band has said that the open soundscape throughout Tree Trunk Airplanes mirrors the never-ending blue skies that stretch over the Rocky Mountains. I would agree. "Vast" is a particularly apropos word to characterize the songs, which sound kind of like fellow ‘rado residents String Cheese Incident, minus the jam.

Album opener “Diminished Returns” sets this spacious, airy mood quickly, as forlorn vocals a la Thom Yorke peer through a misty instrumentation. But just before the dreamy sounds induce hypnosis via heightened alpha wave activity, an eruption of noise (think Weezer) reassures that rock and roll have indeed not left the building. But this isn’t a jam. Here, it’s all about the song writing.

The band wastes little space. On "Years Ago," persistent guitar strums give way to a hook constructed of whistling. The melody is simple, but remarkably effective, firmly grasping listeners’ attentions. “Lift” and “Blame” continue in this vein, both with subdued yet effective points of interest centered on a mantra-like, vocal climb. Amidst the overriding, dream-like mood of the project, the repeated spotlight on harmonies is so effective in tying the seven songs together that the label of concept album would be warranted, if only loosely applied.

From a jamband perspective, tunes “From The World I Have Known” and “Eoghan, Late Saturday” have a particularly energetic, nearly aggressive vibe that has all the makings for instrumental detonations. Like Umphrey’s McGree's “Made to Measure,” both songs climb toward, but stop just short of jam. They exist quite nicely without it, but nonetheless alluding to the potential for one's existence. But by far the album’s greatest number, “Machine,” seems to combine the best elements of all the previous songs into one lush orchestral voyage. A very cool sonic-travel from undirected space to a concentrated, riff-centered ascent, guarantees that this song will exist effortlessly in the world jam. On this cut, SoundRabbit easily sounds the equal of String Cheese, with “One Step Closer” being the prime comparison.

I’m still not entirely sure what a SoundRabbit is though. If I had to guess, I would say it’s in reference to vigorous reproduction (insert obligatory reference to "bunny love" here). That makes sense, at least in respect to the cascading, entwined vocals which exist within the economical sound at the core of Tree Trunk Airplanes. It remains to be seen how the band will handle live performance of the project, whether sticking to the script or improvising. Regardless, this is a good album, by a good band, which should be well-received on all levels.

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