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Troll - Que Son Los Trolls Y En Que Nos Ayudan?

I simply cannot think of a better band to represent America's cultural diversity than Troll. The reason for this is not readily apparent; how can I explain myself without introducing the band? They are Lotte Svennigsen (vocals, keyboards, and theremins), John Koch (vocals/guitars), Scott Hewicker (guitars, pianos, and organs), Marina Moreno (vocals and bass-playing), and last-but-not least, vocalist/percussionist/organist Cliff Hengst.

It is apparent just by looking at the band members' last names that some ancestral diversity is present; one could assume traces of Latin America, Scandanavia, and the British Isles. What makes a band like Troll so amazing is what they do with that ancestry; the result is a stunning cocktail of music unlike anything most people have heard.

On their 2001 debut, Que Son Los Trolls Y En Que Nos Ayudan? (henceforth referred to simply as Que), Troll mix varying degrees of J-Rock (a slang term for Japanese pop rock), brit-pop, 1960's-1970's American West Coast Garage rock, Kyuss stoner vibes, Pixie freakouts, Latin beats, Texicana folk, and straight new-age noise rock to make a band so diverse it is unique. This represents a perfect analogy for America itself; how did a country formed almost entirely out of immigrants (i.e. unoriginal inhabitants) go on to represent something wholly separate and unique from anything else in the entire world? Troll come across in the exact same way; on one hand, music fans can probably detect a million different styles and influences here. On the other side of the divide, Troll blends those influences so well that everyone will swear they're hearing a musical revolution that has never been done before.

In many ways, most of the music on this CD truly has never been done before. Take opening cut "Silver Mountain." This track has garish psychedelic garage rock chords, keyboards that sound like futuristic saxophones, and bright, colorful vocals that appear to be in Danish. Oh, and while I'm talking about languages, the band proudly proclaims that they speak Spanish, English, Japanese, Spanish, and Danish, so don't worry if you can't sing along in any tongue besides joyful garbling. 

"Equilibrio" is a acidic jam-rocker thought up by a schizophrenic versed in Lingustics. The space-rock guitar solo is Hawkwindish in scope, and bloody grand. "Love Song for Trixie" is a toe-tapping song that sounds ever so slightly brit-pop; the lyrics are mindlessly fun, and I challenge anyone not to smile at this song. "Dinahsoar" is a dreamy collection of random sounds formed into an odd jaunt through a weirdness. It feels like you're searching the attic of a musician who recently passed away, and maybe stopping to play a vinyl or two while you're there. "Army" is a smokey whisp of straight psychedelic rock; heck, the lyrics are even in English this time! 

"Blue Skies" is probably the best pop song I've ever heard; soft, lush, and warm 1960's folk pop ambles by in an array of shoegazing starbursts. It slowly builds into a swell of simplistic, joyous, guitar meandering. I'm willing to bet Beatles fans will like this one. 

"Texas Bossanova" is straightlaced Texicana/bossanova folk mixed with some Japanese lyrics and a really grooving bassline; it makes for some oddly enjoyable fun. "El Vampiro" sounds like a Pixies song; if the Pixies had spawned 30 years from now in the Orient that is. Noisy, psychotic, and a little scary, its another solid track. "California Poppy" is a trippy little jaunt through the Technicolor movies of days long since past. 

"Liars Club" sounds like one of the lighter cuts from the classic Smashing Pumpkins album Siamese Dream, albeit if the Pumpkins had been taking foreign correspondence classes and listening to less rock and more folky pop.

Despite all the treats we've had before, the jaw-dropping "Sleep Trane" is an epic (see about ten minutes long) length track comprised of soft, sunny folk and classy jazz horns. The song's nonchalant and dreamy qualities are what sets this treasure apart, and as fluid vocals cascade from all the members and the tempo gets slowly but surely more rushed, "Sleep Trane" gets better and better....which makes the 12th track "Birdsong" seem like a farce; the careless Danish lyrics over a flock of malfunctioning birds would have been cooler had it not been set at the heels of the album's best track, or longer, seeing as it doesn't even reach two whole minutes.

Troll traverses the musical world and brings the listener back relics from each stop on the map. There truly is something for everyone here (indie auteurs and progger-heads will probably get the biggest highs) and there's barely ever a dull-moment. My one sole complaint is that a track or two were filler and just added empty minutes to the album; this CD is so damn good a two minute track of ambient chaos here and there is not even necessary. All-in-all, this is one Troll you'll hope to meet under any bridge you need to cross in your lifetime.


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