Garage A Trois

Calm Down Cologne
(Royal Potato Family)

Calm Down Cologne is the kind of project fans dream about. The five-track release is a welcome return to the foundational lineup of Garage A Trois, now with added finesse. The album’s improvisation-heavy focus showcases the kind of group chemistry that can only be attained after so many years of musical activity, stylistic evolution and nurtured social connection.

Right from the opening of “No Zone,” the offbeat stutter of Skerik’s saxophone motif sets the song in one direction before the bold snap of Stanton Moore’s snare whips the music around with the false tease of a meter change.

Each track presents easy-to-grab hooks, either through a downbeat-accentuating pattern or dramatically contrasting timbre. Yet, tracks never get too comfortable before a notable pivot. Christa Wells’ unison vocal overdub aligning with saxophone and keys on “The Epic” is one such colorful deviation.

On “In-A-Pro-Pro,” Skerik finds his own pivots, while tempo and momentum remain intact, thanks to Moore’s drumming and the assertive, wah of Charlie Hunter’s Hybrid Big 6 guitar. Skerik, switching between Rhodes, Mellotron, Modal 001 synthesizer and saxophone illuminates the adventurous and truly fresh side of a reunited Garage A Trois.

While the band embraces roles that serve their instruments best — Skerik’s melodically experimental contributions, for example, don’t try to push the rhythmic direction or set the tempo the way Hunter and Moore do — connection to Garage A Trois’ history isn’t required to appreciate Calm Down Cologne. Simply come for the irresistible grooves and stay for the sonic oddities.