Fun and thrills abound as Japanese sugar-coated math rockers Tricot descended to perform some jams equal parts charming tweeness and syncopated boot to the head.
Tricot are the most intimidatingly technical band I’ve ever seen. Their ability to lock into truly alien grooves and hit musical cues that would leave many classically trained musicians scratching their heads is pretty much superhuman and they really make it look like it’s not a big deal. The music itself sounds much more akin to the Britpop worshipping indie-rock hybrids that dominated a subsection of Japanese music in the 90s and early 2000s, than any unmarketable <1000 view YouTube math rock group writing in 5/8, and that, is a very, very good thing.
Tricot took to the stage at the Bodega and the packed room fell into a reverent silence for a moment as they tuned up. Then the first song started and the subtle sway began. Tricot are not an easy band to dance to. Their music is kinetic and hits you physically but the duelling time signatures and breakneck jolts of silence and before the band clicked back into yet another set of duelling time signatures is surprisingly not too kind on the gig classic arms-crossed-and-sway school of dancing. If there was any one element that instantly confirmed Tricot’s skill at this style of music though, it’s the fact that it sure as hell didn’t stop everyone in the room from trying.
There’s definitely a comparison to be made between the band and highly respected math rock group Battles in that both combine apparently disparate elements of supremely unconventional, complex song writing and rhythmically driven pop fun stuffed with danceable grooves and colourful melodies. Really that’s where the similarities end though, as Battles drew from the sounds of indie rock and electronica for their brand of musical heroin, Tricot instead opt for a broader pallet incorporating elements of alternative rock but far more frequently J-pop and classic western pop. The J-pop influence is particularly all encompassing borrowing the sparkling reverb laden guitars of mainstream Japanese pop as well as the bouncy and borderline-saccharine melodies laden with twee detail and emotive melodrama.
Lead singer Ikumi Nakajima’s Beatles – ‘Revolver’ guitar strap really stuck out on the night because it drew a direct line between Tricot’s knotty pop-fuelled hedonism and the sweet melodies and complex harmonies of classic 60s pop music and the influences became abundantly clear the more you listened for it. The caffeine simulating intertwining 3-part vocal harmonies between the 3 string players, the math-y but smooth and rich chord progressions embellished with 7ths and peculiar voicings heavily favoured by the aforementioned experimental pop pioneers of the 60s, the heavy focus on experimental song structure, it really is all there underneath all the polyrhythms and bombast.
The band themselves had fantastic stage presence with guitarist Motoko Kida stealing the show breaking out a medley of shoulder-height kicks, jumping jacks and general frivolity while still never fluffing a note, or giving any slight sign of fallibility as she delivered both improbable angular riffs and a cheerleading routine simultaneously. The unsung hero of the night was relatively new drummer Yuusuke Yoshida who only joined up with the band in 2016 but plays so tightly with the others you’d think they’d be jamming since childhood as with sheer psychic willpower (and a few meaningful, slightly panicked side glances from bassist Hiromi Sagane) he was able to hold the chaos of clashing time signatures and uncountable stop-starts and lock in some of the tightest grooves I’ve ever had the pleasure of crossing my arms and swaying too. These guys are the real deal.