The title’s an exaggeration. Math rock–or rock music that focused on using complex and technical time signatures, maybe based on math, hence the name–was never in. And still isn’t. But one Japanese trio is making it cool when it never was.
Tricot (トリコ) is an all female trio from Kyoto. They’ve released two E.P.s and two full length albums, and have toured extensively in Japan and Singapore, and more recently also in Europe and North America. A Rolling Stones article from April said they sound like “Adrenalized math rock sped up and given pop’s candy coating”. The thing is, Tricot is a true math rock band. Most of their songs involve 2-6+ changes in time signature, and use more absurd ones like 9/8 and 11/8 and pretty much anything you can think of quite often. They are incredibly talented musicians, and rock hard. But they set themselves apart by actually sounding like they’re having fun, by putting passion and spunk and life into technically complex music. They’ve got catchy melodies and refreshing chord progressions. Their lyrics also seem interesting, though it’s unclear how accurate the translations are (for a translation of Tricot lyrics, see here).
A “typical” example of a Tricot song lies above. It kicks off with sharp bursts of clean guitar, rapid-fire drums, and leaps into a jerking but catchy 5/4 verse. The verses are laced with playful improvisations from the drums, bass, and guitar. Then after a sharp pause, chorus bursts out. In a way, a familiar anthem, in another way, a soaring new sort of song, with broiling drums kicking up storm underneath the antithesis to airy harmonies above. The song repeats with a madly technical improv over the verse and increasingly fun and wild articulation from all band members. The final repetition of the chorus strings together all the innovative elements that emerged in the song and closes with relentless instrumentation.
But no two of their songs are exactly alike. From their first album, THE (ok, I can’t give them credit for their albums named THE and AND, but that’s pretty much my only fault with them), they have the sprinting, repetitive Ochansensu-Su; the riff-based Pool; the spacey and wandering Artsick; the tense, hard-rock and climactic-chorus 99.974. They branched out even more on their second album AND, bringing in electric piano solos (QFF), a giant’s stomping reiteration of epic chorus (Kieru), slick time-signature shifts (CBG), jazzy piano (Pieeen), sputtering spoken vocals and 5 drummers (Niwa).
They also genuinely seem like a ton of fun, and good people. There are all sorts of crazy videos of them roaming around American and elsewhere on youtube, wrestling each other in giant Sumo outfits and seemingly running around a helicopter pad for no reason at all (??). Also check out their video for their song Break, where they invited people to submit videos of them “breaking” from whatever is holding them back.
Cheesy but cute and inspiring. So if you want some feel-good and occasionally mind-blowing new rock music in your life, and you don’t care about not getting the lyrics, I could not recommend Tricot more.
My favorite songs?
P.S. Would definitely also recommend going to Spotify.com and checking out your year in review if you use Spotify. Really cool feature!
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