Trapist’s praises have been sung on this website before, and for good reason. Their brand of spare, spacious improvisation is amongst the best of its kind available and with The Golden Years on Staubgold they’ve come up trumps again. Call it jazz, call it rock, call it whatever you want; the obvious connections are with composers like Feldman and Cage but they’d be equally at home on shelves bulging with John Zorn, Marc Ribot and even bands like The Fun Years. Named Trapist after the silent Belgian beer brewers (the second ‘p’ was dropped to distinguish the band), the trio use the monks’ philosophies of quietness and restraint as their jump-off point and base their sound around air and openness, filling it only occasionally and more often letting it hum alone as an echo of a drum snap or a bass twang.
On tracks like ‘The Gun That’s Hanging On The Kitchen Wall’ the name of the game is restraint. Each member allows the others the time and space to operate without ever crowding each other out. Martin Brandlmayr’s drums are used as sparsely as ever, skittering in the voids on gentle gusts of amp hum. When the band does decide to fill things out – as on ‘The Spoke and The Horse’ – they do so with searing sheets of feedback and let the recognisable instrumentation drop out altogether. When it does kick back in it clatters by on a rickety flatbed of percussion, Martin Siewert’s spindly guitar phrases creating webs around Joe Williamson’s subtle double bass.
The band is obviously incredibly tight, but they play together in such a way as to suggest they’re meandering. Nothing is ever quite concrete, and nothing hits anything like what you’d call a groove. The downbeat reverie of ‘Pisa’ is as close to a ‘traditional’ jazz atmosphere as the trio gets, but even then they cut things through with a series of electronic clicks and squeals that get louder and more ear-piercing as the track progresses. It does end where it began, but that only serves to make the noisy middle section more striking.
In the end all roads lead to ‘Walk These Hills Lightly’, the album’s long, smooth closing piece. Opening on a long electronic drone, it eventually gives way to Williamson’s ponderous bass and a cool noir click. It’s nighthawks outside the diner, beneath the flickering street lights in the rain. Gentle washes of noise flow through, a deep string is bowed and the guitar tiptoes around the edges. Again, Trapist’s patience shines through but then so does their destructive streak. Just as things get comfortable they break right down, leaving glitches and hums to carry drums into the equation. It’s not malevolent in any way, but it is restless and ever so slightly uneasy. In that respect, you might say, it sums Trapist up pretty well. After seven long years, it’s good to have them back.