Trouble Books: Concatenating Fields
Bark and Hiss

Issued in a run of 300 copies, the third Trouble Books album sees duo Keith Freund and Linda Lejsovka moving into a more heavily synthesizer-influenced realm. There're still guitars, vocals, and pop song structures, to be sure, but also an expansion that finds Concatenating Fields delving into experimental noise territory of the kind regularly traversed by someone like Grouper. It makes for an interesting blend, especially when burbling sequencer patterns form a recurring backdrop to the Akron-based duo's customary flights of fancy.

Tracks such as “Cocooning” and “Collapsed Arpeggio” are representative of the arresting rapprochement the album achieves between synthesizer-heavy moodscaping and melodic songwriting. It's an unusual combination not often encountered and works well to separate Concatenating Fields from the competition. Alternating chants between Freund and Lejsovka amplify the trippy character of the slow-motion meditation “Demagnetizer,” while Mike Tolan contributes bass guitar to the vocal serenade “Dead Bee in a Golden Bowl” (less soothing is the album-closing noise exercise “Posthumus Reflections on Lucky Shirt,” a rework of an earlier collaboration with Tusco Terror). Pairing e-bow-styled electric guitar playing with ambient synth elements makes “Aloft / See-Through III” sound like a six-minute spawn of No Pussyfooting, though Trouble Books puts some distance between the two by adding clip-clop percussion and bass guitar to the piece.

Compared to previous Trouble Books' releases, the new one is a bit more stripped-down, suggesting that the two have tried to distill the essence of the group sound into the album's eight pieces. It's thus telling that while recording the album Freund and Lejsovka immersed themselves in the minimalism work of visual artists like Bridget Riley, Julian Stanczak, and Sol LeWitt, and also noteworthy that the pair used Josef Albers's Interaction of Color as a personalized kind of ‘Oblique Strategies' during the album's creation. There's an analog warmth to this homemade album (the duo recorded it in their home attic over the course of a year) that isn't unwelcome, and its thirty-six-minute running time makes it go down easy, too.

May 2012