Road Songs, the debut recording from the Android Trio, is a collection of instrumental reflections of the hazy experience of an American band touring abroad. The set of eight original compositions was written and arranged by drummer, composer and percussionist, Andrew Niven, and covers a wide landscape of stylistic terrain including doom metal, third stream jazz and progressive rock.
The group formed during extensive touring as members of the renowned Magic Band (formerly Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band) and the Grandmothers of Invention (formerly Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention). After playing together on a lark at a café in Sydney, Australia in 2014, Niven, eight-string guitarist and bassist, Eric Klerks, and guitarist, Max Kutner, decided to carry on exploring the possibilities of combining their varied stylistic directions. Road Songs, the first official document of these explorations, attests to the richness of each trio member’s unique performance background and acts as both a tribute to the fabled world of traveling music and a harbinger of the new sonic color that arises from ignoring genre hierarchies.
Each track on Road Songs is a separate aural journey. At the core of “Diminished Returns” is a syncopated, grooving march that supports a soaring guitar fanfare and extended, Zappa-esque solo. “Bay View,” inspired by Niven’s home in Northern California, has a decidedly more soulful veneer with Klerks delivering a busy, hand-tapped ostinato throughout that is remarkable for being both lulling and technically active. The most menacing moment arrives in the manic middle section of “Untitled” which evokes the nervous breakdown of a disenfranchised robot. The elegiac “Blues for Charlie”, dedicated to the late Charlie Haden, features an extended, alap-like introduction on bass and “Kopanitsa” closes the set with a playful take on the traditional Balkan dance form as filtered through the polyrhythmic lens of modern jazz.
Road Songs is a multifarious album with enumerable points of entry that will satisfy listeners and devotees of many diverse styles. The music contained within is at times improvised and locked, soloistic and group-oriented, simplistic and complex but proportioned with exquisite care from start to finish. A limited-edition CD features original artwork by Eron Rauch that reflects to impressionistic quality of the work. Its freewheeling attitude makes it a welcome new entry in the Orenda Records catalog.