Three Trapped Tigers - EP

Tim Miller 13/03/2009

Rating: 4/5

So, this debut EP's over three months old now, and yes, EP is its uninventive title. The reason this review is delayed so is due to Three Trapped Tigers' unquestionable potential, and that they were tipped pretty widely just before we rolled into 2009. The last thing they'll need come March, I thought, is another glowing review of their EP. But, since the release last December, there's been very little in the way of the plaudits that I, and perhaps many people, expected.

It's difficult to fathom why. Three Trapped Tigers tick plenty of boxes with their noisy electro jazz racket. Over the five instrumentals that fans of Battles, F*ck Buttons and perhaps Aphex Twin will enjoy, the threesome pit classically-based piano melodies over scratchy guitars and galloping out-of-control drum'n'bass beats, pausing occasionally to throw in ambient breathers. Opening track '1' (clearly, the hollow numbers for track names idea didn't tire after ˇForward, Russia!'s debut) ignites with a livewire, octivating guitar spazzing out until its squelchy distortion eats itself, and a meditative organ smoothes over the prior drama. The rest of the track hits more electro heights with two rounds of quiet/loud passages, approaching calm with a decent synth riff, before descending again into the crashing rhythms and high-voltage guitar.

But the personal high point is '2', its complex 15/8 time signature and wild piano stabs skip in syncopated mayhem with a visceral drum part giving desperate chase, while a harsh guitar backs up. Some well-observed, subdued vocal layers give this more atmosphere, building into a frenetic awkward finale as the song all but breaks down.

EP tends towards the ambient and mellow after the half way point, '3' being out and out electro in the main, like a tense last-level showdown with Dr Robotnik in the early Sonic video games, until it too breaks down into a volatile fracas, the drums dictating a supercharged finish. The remaining songs make much more serious use of the jazz piano, '4' particularly building from a dead ambience for three minutes into calming scales, before a return of the hazy vocals announce the real launch of the track when they're joined by an anti-fanfare guitar riff. More a stomping slowburner than its three predecessors, its dynamic grows until we're into the final track (guess its title, go on). All-out ambient jazz, '5' is tempered by a rickety drum part until the confidence raises again and each element explodes into near-improvised noise that somehow still makes a certain sense.

Their name is not supposed to represent each member being a 'trapped tiger' - being as it is based on the novel of the same name by Cabrera Infante - but more a nod to the book's theme of contained rage, a suitable surmise for this EP. Its combination of off-the-hook guitars, ambient synths, careering drums and free-jazz piano seem barely contained within the confines of each song, but contained they are, and the loosely guided structures tie the disparate features together with great success. A racket, true, but a very very good one: one that deserves to go on to generate the same level of noise that the Tigers themselves like to make.

Released 8th December 2008