Hailing from Baltimore, Maryland, Lake Trout combines jazz improvisation with hip-hop and techno rhythms to create a particularly hypnotic form of acid jazz. Founded in 1994 as a strictly instrumental jazz band, Lake Trout quickly added singer and second guitarist Woody Ranere, and began touring up and down the east coast. In spite of their two guitar line up, the band retains a distinctly jazzy sound, due in large part to sax and flute parts provided by Matt Pierce. The also make extensive use of hip hop rhythms, and sometimes work DJ such as Chip Watkins, who appears on their newest release, Volume for the Rest of It. This album not only provides a fair approximation of their live show, but also stands on its own as an excellent album.
The band takes some pains to point out that the music on Volume for the Rest of It was performed by living musicians without extensive studio trickery. About half of the album’s 14 tracks were performed live in the studio. This clarification is actually fairly enlightening, as Lake Trout’s music is frequently based on repetitive rhythmic and melodic figures which could easily be mistaken for tape loops. Closer listening, however, reveals that these figures often undergo subtle changes to alter the music’s mood. The addition and removal of these repetitive figures is a hallmark of Lake Trout’s sound, as evidenced by the aptly titled instrumental “Little Things in Different Places.”
This is not to say that Lake Trout can’t jam, though. A number of the songs on Volume for the Rest of It contain extended improvisations, and both “Bad Tattoo” and “Colby” reach searing peaks. The band also breaks away from its acid jazz foundations on the bossa nova instrumental “Traipsing,” which would sound at home on many straight jazz recordings. The heart of the album, however, lies not in the instrumentals, but in songs featuring Ranere’s soulful vocals. While these numbers tend to be relaxed grooves which Ranere dreamily floats above, they are never far from dissonance, and they often take sudden left turns into controlled chaos during the instrumental breaks.
While many jam bands stumble when they enter the studio, Lake Trout seems completely unintimidated. On Volume for the Rest of It, Lake Trout has produced a solid and coherent piece of music with few, if any, low points. It is impressive that they have reached such maturity on only their second recording. Even more impressive is that they have created a sound that is uniquely their own. Rather than trying to emulate Phish or the Grateful Dead, Lake Trout is blazing a trail of their own. This album is highly recommended, especially for those who lean toward the jazzier side of the jam bands scene.