had the luck of recently witnessing the full Trinity Roots line-up (comprised of 6 performers at the time) put on one of the most convincing soul and dub sets I have ever witnessed. I danced continuously for the better part of 3 hours to the group’s funky grooves, drawn out percussive jams, and upbeat dub numbers, along with a couple hundred other music fans who also left with gigantic smiles on their faces. Trinity Roots have been perfecting their live performances for around 3 years now in the soul center of New Zealand – Wellington. Along with Warryn Maxwell’s other band (the furiously funky Fat Freddy’s Drop), Trinity Roots have come to symbolize all that’s good about the New Zealand music scene – fiercely creative musicians striving for success on an independent basis.
One would imagine that a band so entwined with an energetic, non-stop live show, would attempt to recreate their sound on CD, but instead Trinity Roots have taken things down a notch. Simple motifs, gentle, melodic guitar and percussion along with stripped down production give the album a clean, and thankfully uncluttered, sound. It all works stunningly well, Maxwell’s voice being something of the centrifugal force that brings everything together. In a husky, mellow drawl he drops some Jamaican influenced melodies as the bass revolves around him.
The songs still feature percussion quite prominently, often as the solo instrument of choice. Riki Gooche’s studio-enhanced snare rolls and a good number of traditional percussion instruments drive “Sense and Cents” as the long introductory song on the album. Things get back to basics again with the first single, the stunning “Beautiful People”. Consisting of just Maxwell’s soulful croon – “Today, beautiful people/ open you eyes...” and some full-bodied acoustic guitar, the song has been something of a hit on local student radio (and for good reason). Maxwell shows that he’s more than capable of producing a smooth, soulful delivery and the song carries a melody that’ll be stick in your head for days afterwards.
Maxwell himself produced the album, stripping everything down to the clearest representation of their music. In short, it feels right. Tracks like “Call To You” flow on the gentlest of instrumentation, relying on nothing but bass or clavinet along with Gooch’s inimitable and deceptively simple drumming style. There’s a great deal of heart that comes through in the music. The band spent three weeks secluded in rural Dannevirke letting the music write itself, gaining inspiration from the land. What we hear are deep, powerful bass grooves (particularly on the gorgeous “Egos”), propulsive, mellow percussion, and a number of coloring elements (in forms of the occasional burst of banjo, cello and violin), but it’s Maxwell’s vocals that are the soul of the band.
In fact, “Just Like You” takes things down to just an a cappella (with a hint of funky guitar), the group forming a thoroughly funky harmony in the traditional barbershop style. But it’s the last track “Little Things” where Maxwell truly shines. The most casual of choruses – “It’s the little things / That truly matter” carries so much emotion when coming from his spirited voice. Some thoroughly tense violin only adds to the drama of the song, utterly downtrodden and reflective.
The album was delayed somewhat by Maxwell’s own perfectionist approach to its production, but I’m glad he took the time to develop what is one of the most emotional albums I have ever heard – thoroughly engrossing and well worth seeking out.
Reviewed by: Chris Andrews
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01