Thu Jan 29 2009
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5
One potential hazard of fusing two musical styles is that you can end up with a fence-sitting hybrid—a compromise that satisfies neither camp. QQQ avoids this trap on its debut, Unpacking the Trailer..., a peculiar yet glowingly warm effort, which combines chamber-music intricacy with folksy twang. The disc finds the all-instrumental local quartet—violist Beth Meyers, guitarist Monica Mugan, percussionist Jason Treuting and fiddler Dan Trueman—offsetting an occasionally monotonous timbral palette with inventive and heartfelt compositions.
Operating in its most straightforward fusion vein, QQQ still exudes plenty of charm. Album opener "Tykey Jykey" layers complex, angular string lines over an unassuming barn-dance groove. More stimulating, though, are the pieces that crane boldly toward a new genre. In the gorgeous "Sister Sparrow," Meyers and Trueman's broad, cinematic mournfulness gives way to eerie filigree; Treuting's far-off bass-drum thuds heighten an unsettlingly narcotic mood. The band explores its experimental side in "(t)His Land," which reconciles spiky rhythmic workouts into an elegant framework, suggesting a kind of unplugged modern prog.
Some of QQQ's stylistic gambits, such as Mugan's slap-bass--esque plucking on "Runaway Puppy," come off as hokey, and the hour-long disc might have benefited from a leaner running time. But on the whole, Unpacking the Trailer... is a bold statement of purpose disguised as an unpretentious lark.