Mellow, subdued, quiet, melancholy, slow-paced, somber. These are all words I would use to describe tranquil British band Tram’s second album Frequently Asked Questions. Subtle keyboards, barely tapped drums and hardly strummed acoustic guitar. Strings and trumpet used as a garnish. Tram makes a bold statement with such reserved instrumentation. The music feels a bit removed and has a slightly synthetic feel. Maybe it’s the gentle echo around Paul Anderson’s meandering vocals that gives him an almost other-worldly, Placebo-ish tone. It’s “slow-fi space rock”, to use music critic terms.
Tram uses some intriguingly sad vocals to push along the pokey instrumentation. Be forewarned — nothing on this album is happy. Everything is a shade of pale blue from here until “Light a Candle on My Birthday”, the last track on the album. Tram, out of character, tilts to a country/western sound on a cover of the late Tim Buckley’s “Once I Was”, originally recorded for a Buckley tribute album.
The band presents itself somewhat as a smoothed-out Spiritualized minus the jammy guitar stuff and drug references. What is left behind is some slow-moving, soothing music. At times, Tram seems only a few steps away from making some beautiful Muzak. But I don’t mean to insult them with such a statement. Tram truly makes beautiful Music. Remove the vocals and you’ve got yourself some lazy, quiet Muzak, though the band has a luscious slowness unparalleled in the piped-in-overhead business.
To really appreciate Frequently Asked Questions takes an extra effort to truly hear in a world full of raucous noise, but it is definitely worth the effort. Try it on a lazy Saturday morning or late at night when all is still.