The second of an expected three releases from the New York studio band, Traineater is the seaworthy quartet’s ode to industry. Trains, cities and people who once thrived that have become rusting shells of themselves. The dark social ramifications of an increasingly service based economy. I could go on, and so could BOK.
Consisting of Matthias Bossi (Sleepytime Gorilla Museum), Joel Hamilton (Battle Of Mice), Tony Maimone (Pere Ubu) and Carla Kihlstedt (also of SGM), The Book Of Knots are a particularly weird bunch, and each of them bring a lot to the table. Their personalities, individually, shine more on Traineater than their self-titled release, but that may be due to the impressive cadre of guest artists.
Beginning with “View From The Watertower,” the album comes in like a lion, thorn in paw. But Traineater changes gears quickly, as the aching title track follows. The quartet’s style starts falling into place—again, ominous and obdurate, beautiful and idiosyncratic, harrowing and intriguing.
The album plays episodically, but the storylines are intentionally oblique. Each song contributes to the album’s desperate, lamenting tone. “Pray,” a modern black spiritual led by Tom Waits is everything you’d imagine it to be—authentically desperate, yet enjoyable. “The Ballad Of John Henry” is far from folklore, but a sliver of a bleak existence. Even the brief, sample- driven “Hands Of Production” adds a level of context (and kitsch).
As the trilogy marches to a close, Traineater simultaneously satiates and fuels the anticipation. Sure to make any reliable critic’s Top Ten list this year.