Golden Arm Trio‘s first album in six years is turning into a multimedia extravaganza. Released Stateside in June 2007, The Tick-Tock Club has been gaining fans who indulge in writing short stories and creating films around the collection of songs. The writings appear on the album’s official webpage, and the short films were displayed last year at Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. (Films inspired by an earlier Golden Arm Trio album are available via YouTube under the title “Golden Arm Film Project.”)
The group’s music, spearheaded by multi-instrumentalist Graham Reynolds (who is the only constant member of the band), certainly merits these multimedia reinterpretations. As opposed to the more standard jazz fare, which swaps out riffs and extended solo sections, Golden Arm Trio ebbs and flows, allowing feels to change at the drop of a hat. This plasticity is evidenced full enough in the title track, which bounces from Bitches Brew-style of jazzy freeform to a drum-off section and then into a funky middle-eastern twinged feel without any hesitation. It’s the jazz version of Mr Bungle – slightly rough around the edges, but beautiful enough in its own way.
The talent is certainly here. Reynolds was purportedly joined by two dozen musicians on the recording, and the intricacy of, for example, 20 Million Ways To Die In Chicago, which brandishes an early rock feel, strings, and sexy horn embellishments singlehandedly shows off the expert level of playing here. More than the playing, though, the album shines in its arrangements.
The Tick-Tock Club evokes the soundtrack of a movie with short, transitional tracks like Dmitri Dmitryevich and He Likes An Eyewitness placed in the midst of powerful, energetic tracks like Disco and the swingy Bulldoze: The Super-Power Dance. Though a bit schmaltzy at times, Dsch and the other slower numbers are perfectly placed in the sequence of tracks, bringing resolution to the frenetic chaos of other tracks. Hell, there’s even a noise track, Cosimo Matassa, wedged in there for all the indie Fuck Buttons devotees.
But every sound is placed with grace, and you get the impression that Reynolds is not a force to be trifled with. Indeed, the composer has both scored films (including Richard Linklater’s film adaptation of A Scanner Darkly) and written classical pieces before his forays into genre-shifting jazz in Golden Arm Trio. The Tick-Tock club shows this diversity; in fact, it is more of a large orchestral composition than a normal album – its songs flow and connect like the movements of a symphony.
What’s achieved in the end is a surprisingly fresh set of compositions that can keep your attention across 40 minutes. That’s a significant achievement in this age of technological wonder, where it’s far too easy to bunny hop from one topic to the next. The Tick-Tock Club gives you a reprise from the information overload, transporting you to another place entirely.
And if you pay attention while you’re there, maybe you can write about it or make a film about it when you get back, pushing forward the whole Golden Arm Trio multimedia experience.