“The humorous interludes may prove divisive; it’s strongest when they dig hard into a groove”: Trifecta control the fusion in The New Normal

Steven Wilson band veterans Nick Beggs, Adam Holzman and Craig Blundell build on their 2021 debut

Trifecta - The New Normal
(Image: © Kscope)

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Mutant vegetables, schizophrenic spoken word passages, and a didgeridoo bump into each other on the second album from the genre-warping trio of Nick Beggs, Adam Holzman and Craig Blundell.

Musically speaking, The New Normal picks up from 2021’s Fragments, offering listeners a high-spirited blend of groovy fusion and experimental prog delivered in easily digestible bite-sized servings.

Where most albums in the fusion world tend to feature longer tracks that allow plenty of time for expansive soloing, there’s a clear sense of discipline here. While The New Normal is a double album for those experiencing it on vinyl, the tracks are the length of pop songs, barely stretching over four minutes for the very longest.

Consequently, there’s never any danger of an idea outstaying its welcome or a musical motif being dissected until any trace of the original melody has long since vanished.

Alex Lifeson’s presence on Once Around The Sun is distinctly understated

What’s noticeably different this time compared to Fragments is the greater prominence of Beggs’s voice. The majority of the music remains instrumental, yet he sings several tunes, bringing a heartfelt tenderness to the ballad Once Around The Sun, and a satirical sensibility to Stupid Pop Song. The album is punctuated by spoken interludes in which Beggs argues with himself, playing either siblings or perhaps two sides of his own mind, debating who’s the better didgeridoo player in Sibling Rivalry and trying to escape himself in What Are You Doing.

There’s more surreal humour in Stroboscopic Fennel which brings to mind Frank Zappa, Paul Gilbert’s 2012’s album Vibrato, or some of Stewart Copeland’s wackier compositions. Like that other prog-fusion power trio The Aristocrats, Trifecta often walks in the footsteps of Zappa, marrying a knack for catchy hooks and an enthusiasm for songcraft with prodigious technical ability and a sense of the absurd, qualities evidenced in tracks like Ornamental Lettuce and the slinky Kleptocrat.

Theo Travis guests on Daddy Long Legs, although it’s not the most compelling tune, while Alex Lifeson’s presence on Once Around The Sun is distinctly understated. More engaging are the tips of the hat to some of the group’s musical forebears; Beck And Call is a tribute to the late guitar genius with Holzman capturing Jeff Beck’s sinuous lead style, Bach Stabber taps into Johann Sebastian’s enthusiasm for Baroque minor keys, while On The Spectrum looks towards Billy Cobham’s funky fusion.

The humorous interludes may prove divisive; certainly, the album sounds strongest when the trio dig hard into a groove on the funkier tunes and showcase the music rather than the comedy.

The New Normal is on sale via Kscope.

David West

After starting his writing career covering the unforgiving world of MMA, David moved into music journalism at Rhythm magazine, interviewing legends of the drum kit including Ginger Baker and Neil Peart. A regular contributor to Prog, he’s written for Metal Hammer, The Blues, Country Music Magazine and more. The author of Chasing Dragons: An Introduction To The Martial Arts Film, David shares his thoughts on kung fu movies in essays and videos for 88 Films, Arrow Films, and Eureka Entertainment. He firmly believes Steely Dan’s Reelin’ In The Years is the tuniest tune ever tuned.