Far from the misty Northwest setting of David Lynch’s seminal TV series Twin Peaks, Baltimore, Maryland isn’t renown for its unsolvable mysteries or damn fine coffee. But there’s a connection between Lynch’s off-kilter locale and the latest album from Baltimore's Lake Trout, entitled Another One Lost. Entire worlds are wrapped up in these creations, surreal outsider worlds set far beyond the typical oversimplifications of mainstream art.
If there’s one word to sum up Lake Trout’s onstage demeanor, it might be “intense.” Aloof, focused, and swaying amidst the layers of their dense rhythmic churn, the members of the band play as much for their own catharsis as for audience entertainment. The other word is “unpredictable,” an apt description of LT’s tendency to transition from a hypnotic, sinister drizzle to full-bore skull rattling thunder, from juicy sax-driven groove to crackling flute-tinged electro-pop. That duality is present on Another One Lost, though more understated and less discordant. Studio technique has mediated the raw emotion of the band’s live set and elicited a smoother, more balanced sound. The intensity is there as well, but refined, hushed to a serene and blissful numbness that’s the musical equivalent of a long rainy night spent awash in red wine and Vicodin.
LT carries the torch for postmodern legends like the Pixies, Sonic Youth and Radiohead while proudly shining its own dark light into uncharted reaches of intricate, intelligent art rock. It’s this early-‘90s “alternative” sound opening the album that most clearly harkens Lake Trout’s influences: “Stutter” soars somewhere between Daydream Nation and Delicate Sound of Thunder. “Say Something” continues with a high-pitched whale song-like drone that’s found frequently throughout the album—the eerie whining treble in direct contrast with the industrial boom of Mike Lowry’s distorted drums. Woody Ranere’s tender voice bleeds the lyrics with a wistful longing, building mood and meaning. Powerfully emotive and expertly produced, “Say Something” is brilliant, exemplifying Trout’s full potential for great songwriting.
A couple of downtempo tunes follow, deepening the album’s somber, contemplative atmosphere. Marked by innovative percussion arrangements, cyclic guitar and tight, subdued production, “Her” and “Holding” are profound studies in artistic restraint and focus. If guitarist Ed Harris took even one shred-heavy solo, the album’s cohesive vibe would be blown and its bittersweet flavor hard to digest. But all is in moderation: Lake Trout definitely had a very clear concept in mind when they laid down these 13 tracks.
My only complaint about the album centers on some of the vocals. There are times when Ranere’s voice is too dominant in the mix and his lyrics too simple for music that’s so evocative and lushly orchestrated. Musically, “Mine” and “Bliss” are incredible songs, marked by an ebb and flow of energy that completely engulfs the listener, but the vocals are too upfront and the lyrics too contrived.
It’s in its more serene and introspective moments when Another One Lost achieves greatness. The simple unaffected vocals in the title song, for instance, highlight Ranere’s voice at its most sincere and stirring. Paired with acoustic guitar, throbbing bass and oceanic cymbals, this is the unique, luminous darkness of Lake Trout—not an evil or malevolent darkness, but a mysterious, midnight of the soul kind of darkness, a poetic darkness.
This second half of the album maintains an exceptionally distinctive sound and vibe, presenting Lake Trout as the truly innovative, inspired band they are. “Burr (The Man)” is a head-nodding instrumental jam. “I Was Wrong” is another fluid, textured groove well balanced between Ranere’s catchy vocals, a punchy rhythm, and humming guitar. At over seven minutes long, “Look Who It Is” weighs in as the album’s longest song by far (the rest of the tunes settle succinctly at the four minutes-or-under mark). Beneath breathy flute and distorted samples, this epic, enigmatic tune crafts a mystifying aural landscape full of swelling cinematic climaxes and unresolved tension. Almost like a dreamy afterthought, “Iris” closes the album like a surreal, tranquil lullaby.
Lake Trout is not for everybody. If you need your music fast, friendly and full of bouncy good times, you might want to steer clear. This album expertly expresses the more solemn side of life, but never oversimplifies or panders to anger or hopelessness. Complex, multi-layered music, these songs are suspended somewhere between ballad and downtempo. Like Lynch and the unsettling town of Twin Peaks, Another One Lost revels in oddity and incongruity, finding power and passion in those dark places where we’re often afraid to look.
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