Rock is in a weird sort of place at the moment. Bands are trying to increasingly mold their sound after radio trends in order to get the airplay necessary to sustain a career, and the ones that aren’t are usually too far off the map to ever be considered by the vast majority of listeners. Few bands try to walk the middle ground between the two, accessible yet arty, and even few manage to pull it off. Enter Tricot, an all-girl rock band hailing from Kyoto, Japan. With a mix of jangly guitars, melodic songwriting, and an eye for the arty, they’re quickly making a name for themselves not only in Japan, but around the world. The reason for this international appeal is clear once you listen to them – Tricot’s sound is incredibly dynamic, shifting between tender, almost whispered vocals to crashing guitars and drums, with Ikkyu Nakajima belting out her lines at the top of her voice. And on top of it all, guitarist Motoko Kida layers intricate guitar rhythms and limber arrangements, which are in turn held down by bassist Hiromi Sagane, giving them a sound and energy that stands apart from their peers. And yet, after all this uphill success, their second album A N D comes at a bit of a troubled time for the band. After touring through Europe and Japan, Tricot lost their permanent drummer. In a move befitting of their dynamic sound, instead of getting a full-time replacement, they instead opted to enlist the help of five of Japan’s most talented drummers. The result is an album that shows the band hasn’t missed a beat, and even in the face of adversity, they’ve only grown more confident in their music.
A N D doesn’t seek to reinvent the wheel, but rather builds upon the blueprint that the band set for themselves with T H E. A N D is an album that feels more consolidated, more stripped down, and more confident – instead of dedicating an entire song to a specific mood or vibe, the band now often effortlessly mixes them together, like on “Hashire”. Starting off with a tense tremolo-picked riff and covered in reverb-laden vocals, it explodes into its chorus. “Pieeen” exhibits these dynamics as well, starting off with tender piano before kicking into the real meat of the song, blending in the band’s trademark guitars with piano work peppered throughout (and even including a piano solo). “QFF” is a long, slow build, a track that very nearly cracks the 7 minute mark, and features very little of their usual rock vibe. It’s a slow, drifting song, that isn’t overly concerned with structure or technique, and instead runs on mood and tension-building. If it wasn’t the second to last track on the album I’d consider it the centerpiece of the whole thing, but that title is a bit out of place with its actual placing. And while “Hashire” and “Pieeen” have the ability to shock with their dynamics, songs like “Niwa”, “Colorless Aquarium”, and “Noradrenaline” burst right out of the gate with all the jangly, punky urgency of any mathcore band. Ikkyu really shines on this album, vocally, especially on “Niwa”, where she shows off her punky, aggressive side, shouting and growling her lyrics with the kind of emotional power that’s not seen often in J-Rock. “CBG” shows another side of this emotional quality, too – Ikkyu sings almost in a whisper for the first half of the track, with gentle guitar arpeggios buoying the song along, and eventually achieves a catharsis resembling that of a post rock band when it finally chooses to kick things up. All these elements are what make Tricot such an interesting, exciting band. Their music is both catchy and technical, moody and aggressive, and even if you don’t speak a lick of Japanese, you can feel some real emotion come through. By taking all the best elements of mathcore and even some from grunge, they stand out as something special regardless of what country you’re from. And with this level of talent, it’s hard to see them going anywhere else but up.