Tricot 3 [Slipcase] CD

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Tricot 3 [Slipcase] CD. Personnel: Ikumi Nakajima (vocals, guitar); Motoko Kida (guitar, background vocals); Hiromi Sagane (background vocals).
Recording information: Dutch Mama Studio; Volta Studio.
Director: Yuji Sakatani.
This third album from all-female Kyoto math rock trio Tricot, and their first to be released in the West, will be the first exposure many English-speaking listeners have to a now-ubiquitous style of indie rock that sells by the bucketload in Japan. The music is characterized by fast tempos, complex structures, scratchy guitars, deliberate underproduction, helium vocals, and incredible instrumental virtuosity. Let's be clear: for all their novelty to Western audiences, Tricot are not doing anything new. There are literally thousands of these bands, many of whom are much better. That said, Tricot are very good, and in a crowded marketplace they do manage to bring something unique to the table. This album is somewhat more mellow than their earlier releases; several of the tracks have relatively slow tempos with retro R&B influences (guitarist Motifour is a self-professed fan of Earth, Wind & Fire). There's a '70s disco flavor to "Yosoiki," while "Sukima" is particularly smooth and laid-back, and "Echo" has a jazzy feel with a classic, old-fashioned melody. Ikkyu's sweet, breathy vocals will be a breath of fresh air for Western audiences, though they may find the deliberately flat singing (which seems to be de rigueur in this style of music) harder to stomach. Most of the songs do not really have a traditional verse-chorus structure, and many may jolt listeners by slowing down halfway through into spacy, psychedelic middle sections. There's still plenty of the faster stuff, however. Frantic opener "Tokyo Vampire Hotel" marries a 100-mile-an-hour tempo to an earworm melody. "Pork Ginger" is one of the album's best songs, with choppy, finger-twisting riffs, clattering drums, and bendy bass shrouded in reverb up to the rafters. "18, 19" best showcases the band's virtuosity, with tight-as-a-drum interplay, stop-on-a-dime dynamics, and a polymetric arrangement. One of the best things about this album is the way the band manage to infuse their challenging avant-rock with a real pop sensibility, dropping in big melodies and catchy girl-group harmony vocals. The closing "Melon Soda" has one of the album's sweetest, catchiest, most Western-sounding tunes; barring the Japanese vocals, it sounds like something that could have been released on Sub Pop circa the turn of the century. Overall, this is a fine album; pre-existing Tricot fans should not be disappointed, while neophytes will hopefully be excited enough to dig a little deeper, and find there's a whole universe of these bands out there just waiting to be discovered. ~ John D. Buchanan


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