The Disco Biscuits - Trance Fusion Radio Broadcast 4

Trance Fusion Radio Broadcast 4 is the newest installment in The Disco Biscuits' series of high-quality live releases. Done more out of need to document the band's ever-shifting sound that for conventional album purposes, TFR4 is another must-have for Biscuits fans and perhaps another mystery for those music fans that aren't familiar with the band.
Fanatics will want the disc as an addition to the first three volumes, but this one isn't going to win people over like those did. If you enjoyed the first three, picking up #4 is a no-brainer. It contains more of the trance-laden quartet rock and infinite jamming, but this time the material is about 50% new.

Capturing the Biscuits live near the end of 2003, TFR4 starts with a fairly new song composed by bassist Marc Brownstein, "Therapy". This short version does well to showcase the oh-so-Brownstein lyrics and vocal style that dominate the tune. This is easily one of the most accessible songs in the Biscuits canon, upbeat and tastefully structured with an addictive refrain of "You can always talk to meeee!"

Next is an expansive version of the reworked Jon Gutwillig song "Pilin' It High", now called "Pilin' It Higher". The first incarnation of this song was one of the band's more straightforward, rocking tunes. Now it has been thoroughly readjusted to offer much more improvisational space. The intro of this tune on TFR4 is nearly as long as the entire older version. Once they get around to the core of the tune, it is shocking to the ears if you are familiar with the previous version. The chunky rock attack has been replaced by a speedy liquid dub backdrop that screams in and out of full on trance madness. The band takes the tune on a serious ride, finally bringing back the vocals after 10 minutes of representative jamming.

Though the band took away one rocking tune, they replaced it with another. The hissing, snorting "Fever" is next on the disc, and this song is quite intense! It simply cannot be appreciated at low volume levels. It has a gale-force guitar line that churns along over a deep, dark bed of synth and bass that brings to mind the moody power of The Cure and recent Lake Trout. The lyrical and vocal style that Gutwillig uses is one of the most unique that the band employs. I can't help but compare this song's vocals to some of the better "alternative" rock that came around in the late 1980's and early 1990's. The meaty middle jam gives Gutwillig plenty of space to divebomb guiatr notes all over the reckless drums and bass. It also has another endearing chorus, much like "Therapy". This song is darkly majestic!

This smattering of new material is offset by a classic, gigantic suite to end the album. The epic "Magellan" has "Once The Fiddler Paid" stuck in it's middle, and the combination is as natural as the sunrise. Clocking in right at 45 minutes, this is a testament to what makes The Disco Biscuits so special in concert. "Fiddler" is even performed "inverted", which means that they segue into the latter part of the song and then work their way to the beginning. If you know the music, the effect is stunning.

Trance Fusion Radio Broadcast 4 grows on you slowly, as opposed to the way that the first three volumes grabbed and snapped your brain to attention. Maybe it will win the band some new fans, but this one is by and large a wintertime cheer-up for the dedicated. Hopefully there are many more to come!

--Bryan Rodgers