Age of Clank (Battles vs Three Trapped Tigers)
Perhaps my despondency over Gloss Drop just stems from listening to it in alternation with Route One Or Die, the astonishing debut album from British trio Three Trapped Tigers. Part drill’n’bass, part teen horror flick soundtrack, part gamelan ambience, whole huge chunk exuberant math rock, TTT’s music demonstrates better than any collection of syllables I can summon up why rock remains the most potent and surprising sonic force on the planet.
Where Battles so often ride the closed tonal loop of African virtuosity, Three Trapped Tigers prowl a vivid domain I want to call “clank”, where the timbre of Konono No.1‘s overdriven thumb piano buzz runs wild, ramping up the colour saturation of keys, guitars and percussion until your eyes are screaming. But the actual language used within this elemental electric savannah is sheer European irresolution. Opener ‘Cramm’ is clank to the max, its clattering overdriven rimshots and sinuous arpeggios punctuated by a menacing battle-prowl. ‘Drebin’ careens purposefully between swerving riffs worthy of Giraffes? Giraffes! and quietudinal gamelan vamp, while ‘Magne’ is unusually, sparklingly consonant, although its pretty ascending guitar harmonics emerge (of course) from a cloud of ultra-brite fuzz, their restless melody’s asymmetry drawing us ever-upwards. Three Trapped Tigers’ open-ended harmonies engender a dynamism that leaves the constant major key cycling of Battles floundering in detergent (though the spooky wanderings through Gloss Drop‘s ‘Africastle’ show, frustratingly, that they do know how to avoid this).
As I write, the world is on fire; people are finally starting to fight their corner. But it’s not the job of music or musicians to lead the charge, or even set out to soundtrack events. Neither should music be a look-back distraction. Forward-looking times will seek out forward-looking art. Extraordinary music can be inspiring, exciting, and – dare I say it – fun, just for itself. Finally it seems we have an opportunity to unfurrow our brows and just enjoy.
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