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Published: 2004/12/06
by Jesse Jarnow

Lake Trout, Tribeca, NYC- 12/1

NYC ROLL-TOP: Sit Down, Stand Up

"You're going to see Lake Trout, huh?" a friend said. "Wow, they've been around forever, right?" And, though it doesn't seem it, they kinda have. Of the 125 or so bands profiled in the first edition of the book this website was originally designed to promote, about a third are still active, in some sense of the word. And of those 40 bands, it's hard to imagine one with a more promising future than Lake Trout. The fact that they've made it this far – a full decade now – and legitimately grown beyond the jamband tag is a testament to their health.

Since 2002's Another One Lost, the band has periodically occupied itself with what they bill as "ambient, sit-down shows," a strain documented on the Live at XM Radio adjunct disc to the PalmPictures re-release of AOL). Wednesday night, the sitting-down was done on the classy confines of Tribeca’s renovated stage, the seated audience making the small room feel very full. Adding to the atmosphere were crystalline full-screen projections on the walls behind and to the side of the band, putting the band in the corner of a small, vivid box. Diagrams, X-rays, photo strips, blow-ups of household objects and other staples of post-David Byrne art school design flashed on the taut white sheets.

For Lake Trout, "ambient" apparently doesn't preclude still-hep jungle beats, rolling walls of sound, and rumbling basslines. (Not that this is a bad thing, I’m just sayin’ — though one friend bailed ‘cause she thought "ambient" meant all melancholy and shit and she wanted to "rock out." I tried to explain. Oh, well.) Lake Trout’s two sets at Tribeca often seemed like an exercise in dynamics, an attempt to begin at the quietest possible starting point (where they get off calling it "ambient") and build to something like full throttle (minus keyboardist Matt Pierce’s demon-punk howls that occasionally punctuate their songs).

And while it may have been an exercise, it was one which unfolded with patience, even at its loudest. In the grooves, there was rarely a clash of ideas. Frequently, one theme would be passed around – most often between bassist James Griffith and guitarist Ed Harris – like an errant strand of DNA, while the rest of the band distilled the graceful, modern paranoia of Radiohead into a modular wall of sound. Voices dropped out, and sections developed with dramatic efficiency, the lines between improvisation, composition, and apparent instinct blurring woozily. By the end of the night, a small pack of dancers clumped in the back of the room. Maybe next time a better billing would be "Everything But The Demon Yowling and Sensitive Indie Songs, Sit-Down Show"?

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