Three Trapped Tigers - EP 2
Gbenga Adelekan 31/08/2009
Three Trapped Tigers EP2 is a tightly-wound spring of controlled, enjoyable chaos the like of which Thomas Jenkinson can no longer manage. 'Enjoyable' is the word here. FUN. This is kinetic, limber music that makes you want to move. Dance? Perhaps not, but MOVE? Most certainly. This isn't Pendulum. It's not even Pivot. It's something much more arrhythmic than that and all the more interesting for it. I've seen people at TTT shows who look like they're having seizures or trying to scratch a junkie's itch. Did I say it was enjoyable? I guess I meant that if you have the predisposition, TTT's music is habit-forming. And like most addictions there's an aspect of fun, but also necessity.
Wordless music (not instrumental) can often be highly emotional, sometimes even more so than when listening to a singer pour out their heart for us. This we know. Sure, wordless music invites impressionistic readings that can often be wide of the mark, but there's no doubt that if a piece of music can move you without words, then the music is probably working that much harder than its lexically-endowed counterpart.
And that's the other thing about TTT's music. They make hard work sound like hard work. There is a school of rock/pop criticism that describes the apex of hard work as the point where its benefits look effortless. Fuck that. I want to see and hear a band existing at the very limit of their capabilities, to borrow a phrase from Brian Eno. Another trick with TTT, though, is that their considerable capabilities hardly ever crowd out the songs, which for all their complexity are not short on hooks.
Like I said when I wrote my track review for '7', the first time I heard it properly I was listening to it on my MP3 player and literally had to stand still in the street for a minute when at 3:37 when the main synth and guitar hook kicks back in after a relatively subdued bridge. The EP as a whole is the work of a group who are now much more in control of their sound.
EP1 mostly contained newer adaptations of songs that had been written for a quartet and was the result of a trip to Berlin for a session with Gordon Raphael that, while exciting, was not without its production difficulties. This time the band's own Matt Calvert sat in the producer's chair, recording took place in London and the new material has been purpose-built for the group's current configuration.
One of the most exciting things about this band is their capacity for extremes of lightness and heaviness of touch. That said, '8' is probably a step too far... the kind of thing that can give a band tennis elbow. At their launch for this EP, bandleader Tom Rogerson called this their dumb-and-bass track. But it still feels necessary and does not harm the overall cohesion of the EP. It is followed by '9', a noir-ish, piano-led piece that points towards a more ambient direction for their music.
This EP is less immediate than its predecessor. Even '5', the hardest-edged, latest composition on EP1 and most obvious predecessor to these songs, had melody lines that you'd be humming for hours after hearing them. Not so this time, but so what? Obvious melodic development has taken a step back to allow other strands of the TTT sound to come to the fore- live and programmed electronics, Adam Betts' inhuman drumming, Rogerson and Calvert's intricate synth bass work.
This is a band for whom not very much (barring, maybe, a dancehall tune) seems impossible. Work is already underway for EP3 and an album. For the moment EP2, almost aggressive in its precision and frequent beauty, is more than enough for us to be getting on with.