Never less than breathtaking
Three Trapped Tigers - Live At The Shipping Forecast, Liverpool

Plenty of bands have tried to recreate the byzantine electronica that signifies Warp Records. The Dillinger Escape Plan nailed a ferocious take on Aphex Twin’s ‘Come To Daddy’, whereas mathletic supergroup Battles were convincing enough to actually sign with the label. And there was also the small matter of some Oxford band… Radio-something? Well, whatever: when it comes to live musicians recreating this particular artful headfuck, Three Trapped Tigers knock spots off the lot of ‘em.

One of the main reasons for this is that ‘IDM’ is merely a basis for their cross-genre adventuring. Side-stepping an audible debt to Plaid, Squarepusher et al., they’re a veritable barrage of relentless energy and dizzying riffs, each one a cornucopia of hypnotic complexity. Stony-faced Matt Calvert’s frenetic axe work sets pulses racing from the off, his fingertips almost casually dancing down the fretboard as a sense of awe descends on the Shipping Forecast’s basement like sweat from the ceiling. This is neatly offset by the atmospheric layers of synth pumped out by band spokesperson Tom Rogerson, while Adam Betts gives a pretty solid performance on drums.

At times, the virtuosity levels teeter dangerously on the brink of prog, and you’d certainly be forgiven should you occasionally wonder if early seventies Yes and the intro to Spinal Tap’s ‘Stonehenge’ had been treated to Goldie remixes. TTT’s best trick is to weave these dense (and sometimes borderline-ludicrous) patterns into immensely danceable hooks – it never feels like flair for flair’s sake. Naturally, they’re more about chops than sass, but the crunching second half of ‘Noise Trade’ should be enough to persuade sceptics that the London trio are here to indulge us all rather than themselves.

There’s little in the way of interaction with the audience, although it’s arguable that there’s no real need for an instrumental band to explain themselves. Instead they largely stick to polite nods and verbal appreciation, before guiding us through more pigeonhole-defying thrills. Tonight’s set concludes with a positively joyous run through of their latest single ‘Reset’, which, shorn of its Matt Berry-starring video and all subsequent tongue-in-cheekery, is a vivid illustration of just how chest-swellingly anthemic Three Trapped Tigers can be. At their best they’re intense, powerful and even life-affirming and are never less than breathtaking. So what to call this dazzling display of derring-do? Intelligent Dance Music? Well, if you like. ‘Utterly, essentially ace’ will do us though.

Words by Will Fitzpatrick
Photo by David Howarth

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