This, the debut album from Three Trapped Tigers, is initially a bit of a head-scratcher. On paper the premise suggests it’s going to be properly twatty, with the general description being something along the lines of “Warp-esque electronica meets instrumental rock meets jazz played by a classical pianist”. Hmmm. When the time came I somewhat reluctantly clicked ‘play’ and prepared to be irritated out of my chair. For approximately the first minute of the opening track ‘Cramm’ I was thinking, “Yesssss, right again! This is going to really piss me off.”

What happened after that first minute caught me unawares. The song settles into itself. It turns out that the description mentioned above was completely correct. Only thing is; it works. And it works gloriously. What you think is going to sound like Rick Wakeman farting around on Ableton Live actually sounds more like he’s let his cat run amok across his music room after feeding it a handful of E’s, but only if it had a solid grounding in dance rhythms and about ten legs. It’d probably need its claws clipped too or it’d slip on the synthesiser keys. But you catch my drift, yes?

While I’ll admit there’s definitely parts of ‘Creepies’ that remind me of Classics-era Aphex Twin or an early Squarepusher vibe on ‘Noise Trade’, they’re so seamlessly integrated into a mixture of math rock and drum & bass and prog that they don’t seem in the least bit forced or out of place. It’s a pretty big testament to the skill of the musicians involved that they can pull this off without making it sound like complete mince; especially when you consider that no sequencing or pre-recorded tomfoolery was used, according to keyboard player Tom Rogerson. The level of virtuosity on display here usually manifests itself as tedious self-indulgent toss of the kind we used to laugh at on repeats of Sounds of the Seventies on BBC2; hairy berks playing ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ on Hammond organs, the kind of shit you’d have to sit through until Captain Beefheart came on; or worse, ‘90s enormo-stadium guff like Dream Theater. This isn’t like that. It’s transparently skilful without being the equivalent of someone wanking in your face, and stays on the right side of restrained throughout.

The closest thing I can think of outside the electronic domain to compare this to (stay with me) is Lark’s Tongues-era King Crimson. Not because it actually sounds like it in practice, but the general guiding principles seem to be pretty similar. There’s explosive aggression tempered with subtle (and not so subtle) changes of mood, rattling percussion and glittering guitar cadences, all fluttering about and fancy-like. I’m not sure what the band’s stage gear consists of, but I think in order to justify my comparison one of them should don an ill-fitting fur stole and start prancing around the stage with a whistle in his mouth, then run away and become a monk. Or something.

Released May 30 on Blood & Biscuits

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Posted by Stewart

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