Nick Bollinger explores the latest instrumental journey from Auckland electro-jazz outfit Trip To The Moon.
There’s something both liberating and challenging about instrumental music. Without lyrics to tell you where you are, one has to rely on other signposts. So when Trip To The Moon call their latest album A Traveller’s Tale, I immediately start to imagine what the particulars of that journey might be. Listening to the title track I found myself wandering through the Kasbah. Somewhere there are echoes of a call to prayer; turn the corner and you’re slammed with some electrified Arabic rock ‘n’ roll.
Trip To The Moon have been making evocative, mostly wordless music for the past couple of decades. The Auckland outfit revolves around a duo: Tom Ludvigson and Trevor Reekie. Ludvigson is a pianist, Reekie a guitarist, though the tools they use to manipulate their instruments might be as crucial as anything they do with the keys and frets. Their compositions have their basis in jam sessions, which they record in their entirety, then sift for gems. Those gems become building blocks that are variously rearranged, replicated, and reinforced as structures.
Then they bring in other musicians who fill out the story, like saxophonist Jim Langabeer whose Arabic motifs led me to the Kasbah, or trumpeter Greg Johnson, who suggests an entirely different location in ‘Santa Monica Stroll’. The title refers to the fact that Johnson resides these days in Los Angeles, but the music takes me somewhere cooler.
At other times, they let the more melodic, linear elements go. What remains still has a shape, but you feel as though you are floating around the inside of that shape. On ‘Indrta’s Pearl’ Ludvigson seems to be meditating on the relationships within a tiny cluster of notes. The much-used term ‘ambient’ doesn’t do it justice; ambient suggests something ignorable, or static like the colour of a wall. But in a piece like this I hear curiosity and enquiry.
Trip To The Moon have been doing this a long time now and they know what they’re doing - or if they don’t, then they have learned to trust the process and know when it is taking them somewhere fruitful. A Traveller’s Tale feels like their most assured, coherent work yet. In an RNZ interview with Eva Radich Trevor Reekie described Trip To The Moon’s music as being more about the journey than the destination. I know what he means. Listening to A Traveller’s Tale, I never find myself asking ‘are we there yet?’ In fact, I don’t even think about where we are going; there’s too much to take in along the way.
Songs featured: A Traveller’s Tale, Santa Monica Stroll, Indra’s Pearl, Saudade, Down To Earth, Where Have I Been?
A Traveller’s Tale is available on Southbound Records.