Veteran Cleveland instrumental act Rare Blend, which centers on the duo of keyboardist Bobbi Holt and guitarist Victor Samalot, offers 14 live and one-take tracks on their fifth album. They deftly balance guitar-dominated sections that lean gently toward rock with moderately aggressive keyboard sections that avoid the new-age trap. While some cuts, like rock/jazz fusion "The Timekeeper," are concise, the meandering "Z'hadum" stretches out nearly 10-and-a-half minutes, giving the band space to create a shifting musical landscape. The sprawling, jazzy "Market Square" features Phil Quidort on trumpet, adding some sonic spice to the basic sound. With a variety of stylistic influences, strong chops and a generally laid-back but still rocking feel, this is music that should appeal to jam-band fans.
— Anastasia Pantsios
Written in one week and recorded in one day, Trans-Atlas' debut doesn't sound like a rush job. Perhaps that's because singer-guitarist Joshua Rex and drummer Benjamin F. rehearsed for two months prior to going into Akron's Tangerine Sounds studio to record with producer Ben Vehorn (Love as Laughter, Drummer, Royal Bangs). The album starts out heavy right from the opening notes of the sludge rocker "The Great War" and never lets up, cranking up the distorted guitar in Sabbath-inspired tunes like the bludgeoning "Accidents/Wave That Flag" and the album-closing "Wigs & Bones." — Jeff Niesel
Trans-Atlas perform with Sea of Bears at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, December 19, at Bela Dubby (13321 Madison Ave. 216.221.4479, beladubby.com). Tickets: $5.