Album Review: Three Trapped Tigers – ‘Route One Or Die’

Somewhere between clinical and passionate, organic and synthetic, the Tigers push new boundaries

Bear with us on this one, but if you just want to skip to the end then here’s a summary: [b]‘Route One Or Die’[/b] is great, it’s a strong 8/10 and it deserves your love. And now, back to the context. Back in the ’90s, while techno and Euro house colonised mainstream dancefloors after the critical boom of Madchester’s rave scene, something that became known as IDM – intelligent dance music – sprang up to offer an outlet for people who didn’t want to listen to music made either by urchins with guitars or gurning Ibiza casualties.

Thing is, the likes of [a]Aphex Twin[/a], Squarepusher, Autechre and Boards Of Canada wanted nothing to do with the ridiculous genre name and fought against the idea of referring to their music as ‘intelligent’; they might have shared influences and methods, but they were all, by and large, just trying to make people dance. Unfortunately, thanks to a load of elitist dicks (and, admittedly, the fact that they were less ‘three chords and the truth’ and more ‘let’s see what happens when you break an analogue synthesizer and re-solder it in a different way for shits and giggles’) those artists came to be seen as a closed circle for sniffy chin-strokers. The upshot of all this is, if you’re ever stuck on a train with someone who identifies his or herself as an IDM fan, give your mum a call, tell her you love her, and kill yourself immediately.

What this history lesson has to do with [b]‘Route One…’[/b] is that while it could be mistaken for a cold, clinical exercise in musicianship, it’s as passionate and energetic as any punk album – much like the best work of the above artists. Sure, there are moments of headspinning trickery, like opener [b]‘Cramm’[/b]’s escalating 10-fingered riff or the syncopated screeching of [b]‘Creepies’[/b], but they’re never too far from something pretty. [b]‘Ulnastricter’[/b] twinkles sweetly, guided by Matt Calvert’s restrained guitar, while [b]‘Zil’[/b] is kept low-key by multi-instrumentalist Tom Rogerson and shows a more graceful, organic side to the band than their previous three EPs suggested.

One constant since their birth back in ’08, however, is the unfuckingbelievable skill of drummer Adam Betts. Few reviews mention the drummer these days but this one does: the guy is inhuman, and it’s his sweat, frenzy and craft that gives [b]‘Drebin’[/b] and [b]‘Noise Trade’[/b] their character. Throughout the album it feels as if everything’s happening at the very limit of what three people can actually do with instruments in a room together, and that’s again largely thanks to Betts. Having said that, [b]‘Route One…’[/b] is an enlightening joy because it trips all over the place, from darkness to bright to fast to slow to synthetic to organic and back again, and that’s not because of any one person’s influence. It’s the sound of imagination itself.

Rob Parker

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