The track begins with violoinist Zack Kline playing a ragged descending line that slips in and out of double stops, fading and swelling in a way that's half-sleepy, half-mournful. When bassist Nick Gaudette falls in behind him with bowed bass, the floor of the tune rises up to meet that lonely melody and a kind of tentative balance is reached. What's arresting, then, is how pianist Mike Vasich enters the tune, a hair after the music seems to ask him to, with two tiny, hesitant chords. It complicates and colors that balance between the violin and the bass, and it would be easy enough for the piano to come in and take over much more sonic space--I've heard it happen before all too often. But that sensitivity to maintaining an imperfect balance, or maybe a perfect imbalance, is what gives the Orange Mighty Trio's music its uniquely plangent character.
They call their music "bluegrassical"--and "Orange Line" certainly fits that description--but there's something more at work here than that catchy sobriquet would imply. The album's construction around the theme of travel (other song titles include "Off Ramp," "Northbound," and "Interchange") ties it inevitably to the Phillip Glass/Kronos Quartet collaboration Different Trains and if anything, the group is more closely related to the avant-garde tradition than the classical one. The folk aspects of their music seem more Appalachain than bluegrass, particularly without the driving rhythm of acoustic flatpicking or the plinky insistence of banjo.
Take, for example, "Waltz of the Traffic Patterns," which is a genuine waltz and not just a clever name. Its steady, dreamy sway has been stuck in my head for days, especially the way Kline's violin climbs hand over hand back up to the top of the form the first time it comes around. The effect is much more akin to the weird, lost music recorded by Alan Lomax in the late '50s than what you might find at a modern bluegrass festival. It might be a little thing--that figure Kline plays--but Infrastructure is an album that's more or less entirely composed of such tiny joys, and if you give it the attention it merits, it will reward you richly.