Review Summary: You don't like instrumental music? You do now!
Tim Rogerson (Keyboards/electronics)
Matt Calvert (Guitars/Synthesizers/electronics)
Adam Betts (Drums/electronics)
Genre: Progressive rock, math-rock, post rock and electronica. With a slice of world music inspiring some of Betts' drumming.
Purely instrumental bands have always been a strange one for me; my favourite bands are very much about the instrumentation, long instrumental breaks and the mastery of their weapons of choice, but that being said I have always found it difficult to enjoy bands whom only write songs entirely void of vocals. Some musicians are the exceptions to that obviously, such as the mighty Frank Zappa and now the debut album from English band Three Trapped Tigers.
Let's get down to business:
Route One Or Die opens in terrific fashion with "Cramm", my personal pick of the bunch, a song bursting at the seems with melodic and rhythmic ideas; as energetic as any great punk song, boasting a combination of riotous guitar and synthesizer/electronic-sounds so perfectly matched you'll be convinced the song was written by sentient machines. The song is powered froward by Calvert's very interesting, sharp and beautiful guitar work (Which sounds much like circuit dialog at times) atop Betts' complex drumming at such a pace and with such unadulterated enthusiasm for the next part of the song that it is plain to see the band is fueled by the combination of the six balls they possess collectively (I presume). However, "Cramm" is more than just a frantic leap into the world of technicality and pure enjoyment; the tones and emotion which TTT rouse within a song such as this is immensely refreshing when compared to the legion of instrumental bands out there whom lack emotional pull. Said emotion is accomplished through emotive pitch/note/chord progressions and the ever present electronica/synthesizers. On a side note, fans of Omar A Rodriguez-Lopez's better guitar work (Primarily in The Mars Volta) should love this song instantly).
The next standout track is "Ulnastricter" where TTT show us a different side to their song writing capabilities. The song begins very peacefully with some metallic percussion from Betts and some pleasing and yet again emotive, almost regretful at the thought of doing something which must be done, synthesizer before developing into a call and response between said synthesizer and Calvert's high-pitched, Faunts-esque and hair-raising guitar work. The song builds and builds until it reaches a climax which lasts as long as the build up and sounds like two giant space monsters, whom were once allies, locked in a battle to the death (Or just some great music, take your pick). It is this section of "Ulnastricter" which truly makes you say "F**k me! That was Awesome!" as it twists and turns through a myriad of layered synths, guitars which sound like a computer wailing and equally impressive drumming which rolls and rolls about your earphones like a steal barrel full of knives and forks bouncing down a rocky hill-in a good way. This song is a very, very close second to "Cramm" and reveals more with each listen.
Now it's time to cover the negative points. "Zil" would be my own low point for the album although I'm sure many people will love the song for it's simplistic synth/xylophone-esque rhythm which shifts through the piece but occupies the sole idea in the entire song. Said idea is a good one, very emotive, mournful in a way, but the song as a whole does not work for me as it is sparse on interesting musicianship and lacks variation. Some of the songs on the album contain one or two brilliant moments but never capitalize on that fact and instead opt for confusing this brilliance by adding in slightly more bland ideas. Also, although TTT very rarely succumb to that pitfall which plays havoc with most instrumental bands - ideas drowned out by the fuzz buzz of bland distortion and ambience - they do still stray into the realm of "What the hell's that? That's just feedback for f**k sake!" That being said, when TTT do use this all too common musical tool well, they do it very well; they use distortion and ambience sparingly and only when it feels right for the song, most of the time.
The final standout track has to be "Magne". This song presents us with another side to the band, mining the same vein as the beginning of "Ulnastricter" but expanding upon the marriage of atmospherics and rhythm. Brilliant guitar lines, which use harmonics to great effect and reveal the core of the song to be a complex pattern whilst Betts utilises his ability to create beats which are both intriguing in their musicianship and expert in their grounding of the song. "Magne" is very much TTT playing with several ideas, shifting them into numerous guises and toying with the dynamics of the "build up, break down, build up, break down," style of songwriting. A song which is best listened to in the dark and contains a great final climax.
Finally I would say that Route One Or Die is a fantastic album steeped in emotion, crapping itself with energy and showcasing three musicians whom know exactly what they want to do. Three Trapped Tigers combine progressive rock, math-rock, post rock and electronica like so few bands and despite it's downfalls I would recommend it to any fan of complex music, any musicians and anyone with ears.