When Eno says something like that you’d do well to listen.
Three Trapped Tigers are an instrumental noise-rock trio from London. This description does not do them justice.
Formed in 2007, Silent Earthling is their second album, the first on Superball Music, following the release of a trio of EPs. TTT’s music is enthralling, an eclectic and exhilarating melange of styles hammered out in rhythmic pulses. The depth that they manage to instil into their music is to be applauded, this is music that is meant to be heard doing its thing live and I fully intend to experience that soon. From the opening drum patterns of the title track the playing grabs you by the lapels and throws you against the nearest wall. Background listening this is not; TTT ensure heightened levels of conciousness by slapping the listener across the face whenever the opportunity arises.
Although driven along at an often frenetic pace by Adam Betts’ drums, this is not all a bludgeoning volley of undirected beats. Far from it, the whole is intricately detailed, in the rhythm patterns and the evolutions that they go through, but also in the top line melodies, usually keys driven, that give the album a focus and entice the listener in before springing the trap and kicking the shit out of them. This music is intelligent by design and holds the attention play after play. While the separate parts often appear fairly straightforward, by bringing them together and allowing them to grow the whole becomes something very special. The selected sounds are supremely effective, the separation of the instruments allowing a clarity that gets to the heart of what is going on, the sheer drive often taking the breath away.
The drum patterns aren’t allowed to get ahead of themselves and remain controlled rather than becoming the sound of much kitchenware being flung down a metallic fire escape. Occasionally, such as at the end of Strebek, everything falls away to a near drone, allowing the senses to recover and gear themselves for the next onslaught, which duly arrives in the shape of Kraken. Easy listening this is not, the unsuspecting audient would do well to strap themselves in before hitting ‘Play’.
“I think the problem for anyone striving to create their own sound is, once you – hopefully – have achieved that, how do you expand that whilst maintaining it?” questions guitarist and keyboard player Matt Calvert, writer of most of the material. Well Matt, you’re doing O.K. as far as I can tell! The Tigers appear to be on an upward creative curve, taking the basic trio format and pushing the envelope of what can be done with it within a seething pool of 5-minute electrostatic blasts of melodic angst. Amidst the undulating synths and near industrial textures, Hemisphere features a bass that drops so low it cracks the floor. On occasion this is jaw-droppingly glorious stuff, Kraken a case in point, while at other points there is a delicacy and supremely melodic crust, such as with Blimp which edges into Battles territory, conveying the same acknowledgement of genres more closely associated with dance, all backed up with a meaty hay-maker to the back of the head.
TTT have developed themselves in the five years since their first album by working collaboratively on projects many and varied, continuing to plough an idiosyncratic furrow and looking to expand in new directions. They have toured with Deftones and Dillinger Escape Plan, played an improvised gig with Ståle Storløkken of Supersilent and worked with Underworld’s Karl Hyde as well as the aforementioned Brian Eno. In fact keyboardist Tom Rogerson has a collaborative album with Eno due out later this year. Calvert and Betts feature in The Heritage Orchestra where they have performed electro-orchestral reworkings of Joy Division, the Blade Runner soundtrack, the music of Giorgio Moroder at Sydney Opera House and Goldie’s Timeless at the Royal Festival Hall. In a genre defying career arc they’ve also worked with the likes of Roots Manuva, Skepta and JME. Rogerson says: “Matt has produced and mixed quite a few records in the intervening years, and his production chops are much stronger, so we’ve ended up with tracks which are far more sonically detailed than previously, which means it’s all a bit more Technicolor… when I listen to it, I still think that we don’t really sound like anyone else – even if it’s an unholy jumble of all of our tastes – which is as good a reason as any to make music”.
The keys shimmer on Engrams whilst an audaciously unrelated rhythm meshes with it perfectly. It’s massive yet detailed enough to study under a microscope, bludgeoning but with a velvet texture. Any of the tracks here should make a discerning listener stop mid-stride to enquire who or what it is, the results subtle and beautiful yet bamboozlingly brutal all at the same time. Widescreen and claustrophobic; simple yet complex; punishing but melodic. These dichotomies lie at the heart of the music of Three Trapped Tigers and that’s what makes it so satisfying.
Elsewhere ends things beautifully, the cutlery draw finally cast down the fire escape in support of a compelling melody line, the whole having a few elements of Mew about it whilst casting off into waters uncharted.
The cage for these Tigers has been left unbolted…
01. Silent Earthling (5:33)
02. Strebek (5:35)
03. Kraken (5:02)
04. Blimp (4:42)
05. Engrams (5:19)
06. Tekkers (5:11)
07. Hemisphere (5:47)
08. Rainbow Road (4:52)
09. Elsewhere (5:04)
Total time – 47:05
Adam Betts – Drums
Matt Calvert – Guitar, Keys
Tom Rogerson – Keys
Record Label: Superball Music
Available as: Special Edition CD Digipak, 180g Gatefold 2LP Edition (incl. the album on CD and etching on side 4), Digital Download
Date of Release: 1st April 2016