Into the Pit: 080: Three Trapped Tigers – Live at The Harley Sheffield – 19-August 2009

Last night took me to a small, back-of-a-pub gig for the first time in a long, long time. Those nice folk at Drowned In Sound have been running a small handful of “DiScover” gigs at The Harley in Sheffield’s university district over the past year or so, and this gig on the latest DiScover tour was the first one I’ve been able to attend.

DiScover Tour

Three Trapped Tigers
Gold Panda
Urgent Talk

The Harley, Sheffield
19 August 2009

In all honesty, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, either. I’d only heard of the headliners – and they were the reason I was there – but I got there early enough to see all three bands, and I’m actually glad I made the effort to get there earlier.

DiScover Tour: Urgent TalkFirst – and local-ish – band on were a three-piece called Urgent Talk, who were something of a refreshing change, at least to me, anyway. Not your usual plodding, guitar-based indie band, instead one on a sampler and guitar, another on keyboards, and then a viola player, with all of them, as I recall, contributing vocals at points. The sound flew all over the place, from indie-pop to shoegaze to heavy-duty electronics, and at points – particularly in the fantastic closing track – including all of them at once, with viola player Roo’s sweet vocals proving a pleasant counterpoint to the more gruff male vocals. I picked up both recent EPs, but haven’t had the chance to listen yet. Hopefully they’ll be as good as the live performance was.

Second act was Gold Panda, which consisted of one man and an awful lot of equipment playing what I can only really describe as organic electronics. Or, perhaps, IDM. Either way, it was impressively live – most of it seemed to be triggered on the fly – and not a million miles away from some other acts I’ve heard lumped into the industrial scene and would play events like Infest, either. Like many one-man acts, though, watching one guy hunched over the his equipment isn’t a lot to watch, but it was good to listen to.

DiScover Tour: Three Trapped TigersThe headliners Three Trapped Tigers were what I was there for, though, and they didn’t disappoint. For music writers, the blurring of the lines between many genres by bands nowadays makes our life very difficult indeed to try and get across how a band sounds – particularly as genre descriptions are, more than anything, a useful way of at least saving a few words.

So, nominally, they fall into the realms of what may just about still be regarded as post-rock (or maybe math-rock). Post-rock’s definition on Wiki regards it as the “use of ‘rock instrumentation’ for non-rock purposes“, which is about right. But from the mellower – in the main – early forms of post-rock, styles have diverged wildly, with in recent times an ever-increasing use of electronics by some bands, and the most appropriate reference points here are local heroes 65Daysofstatic and, more than anything, Battles.

An extraordinarily technically accomplished band, TTT play an awful lot of instruments to say there is just three of them onstage. Main guy Tom Rogerson is surrounded onstage by five electronic keyboard/sampler units, Matt Calvert plays two more keyboards as well as a heavily treated guitar, while Adam Betts plays drums, and he at points appears to be playing with more than one pair of arms such is his technical ability.

Also of note, confirmed in a recent interview, is the band’s insistence on playing everything live, without any backing track. Which when you see just how much they are using on stage, and their constant switching between instruments, makes the complex, polyrhythmic sound that they create sound all the more impressive. The tracks themselves vary between the said polyrhythms and crushing heights of 1 (they don’t do “proper” track titles – the tracks on EP1 were 1 through to 5, and on EP2 they are 6 through to 9), and impossibly pretty and delicate piano-based compositions, before trying to fit as many other styles in between as possible too. Like the spectacular live drum’n’bass sections, muscular stoner rock grooves, glitchy electronics and wordless vocal harmonies that add some human feel to an otherwise at points mechanic sound, such is the precision of what they do.

Time flew as the set passed, and when they finished at 2300 I was left hoping for more. I’ll just have to go see them next time – and that next time, according to the band, will be supporting 65DoS in Manchester in November. Now that will be something worth attending.

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