First things first: Rob Travolta is just a name. The actual Rob in the group is Rob Cave, the bassist for Missoula rock band Fuuls.
For his side project, Cave has teamed up with drummer Cole Bronson for a collection of songs in which synth, bass and drums are the focal point, making for a tasty 25 minutes of wordless anthems that have a proggy technique and a songwriter's mindset.
While setting aside the guitar (mostly) and vocals (entirely), these are fully fledged songs that invite all manner of moods. Despite the self-effacing presentation, a track called “John Wayne Gets Worst Dad of the Year Award” is an emotionally rich cascade of basslines and some light six-string noise.
“Nearly 30” might make one brace for an indie rock song about aging, but instead it’s a bouncy and wide-eyed instrumental track that's open to possibilities. It’s also a low-key but showcase electric bass. While the synths carry the melody, Cave plays more like a guitarist, allowing the warmth of the instrument’s upper register to shine through — he's more than proficient but never dips into the virtuoso cliches like slapping.
On other tracks, like “Master with Cracked Fingers,” the synth often lays back and Cave unravels the melodies himself. The pensive and charging “Churches and Casinos” paints itself like a Montana road trip tune, as the landscape and structures themselves speed by along with the layers of synth arpeggios. “Acceptance” sets the unlikely pairing of fuzz bass against harp and synth, again fleshing out the shifting moods of a song without the aid of lyrics. The title track signs off with a high-flying trumpet line and jazzy drumming from Bronson.
The band will also play an album release show on Thursday, Sept. 30, with Bombshell Nightlight (indie rock) and Farch (hip-hop) at the ZACC Show Room. Doors to open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 7:30. Tickets are $10.