. issue II : iii .
. artist : the trillions .
. album : tritones .
. year : 2012 .
. label : worthless junk .
. grade : b plus .
The pipeline for surf rock curled foaming waves floor to ceiling, and you’d better be riding the tide–it’s not waning. Definition percussive asides: the 1970’s flavored a large portion of the 2000’s with artificial powder: foreign failure fights, ‘flation, petroleum crisis, resound fashion thrift and nostalgia shockwave. D.O.I. — as though every knock of time isn’t etched annals! These tiny unerasable particles, this fairy dust of collective unconsciousness, still float about the atmosphere to be inhaled and remodeled, new molecule and mitochondria repair, cruel joke shortsighted etymology of the word rebirth. (The wish is never quite as whimsical as the road to fulfillment.)
It’s a folk revival mutation, the biblical family tree begating dashes (freak-folk, punk-folk, noise-folk, blackmetal-folk: Joanna, Devendra, Sufjan, James) as disco-defying Chicago singer-songwriters DIY at an alarming rate and an album of standards is just a mouseclick away; the Nick Drake and Platinum Weird gamut runs with itself. (I do love the dead days of laminate as a legitimate industry: the golden age of a lot and the silver age of more within the experiencable past.) Television’s heroin-chic injected the Strokes to magazine covers and rave reviews of music reviewers seeking a New York Dolls’ approach to album setlists, antics, and inaccessibility (that cleaned up quote paraphrased “Dear blankety, Opiates have NO negative effects, A-hole”) resonating with the XYs for the first half of the Oughts’ settling in the leathery walk of Australia, and the United Kingdom’s mod approval and high street sensibility export-and-tailoring along the midwest Mississip’illiana to New Orleaustin.
The Trillions’ (Joe Ferguson, Robbie King, Charlie Glenn, and Chris Smith) 2012 release Tritones comes off with that brash–that–swagger and chew (Bazooka Dubble Bubble Hubba! Oi) in precision rhythms. ‘Math rock’ doesn’t quite do it justice, and the timing is delicious to compare The Trillions to a tight instrument weld (so what band isn’t ‘tight’) but this is ensemble work done well. The punchbowl crystalizes, a drawl and a yawn with sharp consonants, with paving guitar subway 3rd rail basslines that belong anywhere in the album being swallowed and digested all through short-term memory, ladeled up in layered flavor. Tritones is an album you could mistake for harnessing backing of financial proportions … once associated with a larger organization … or, if these are the kinda records getting made under the Obama administration, I want to emphasize that the future is bright indeed.
“Not only is Tritones good, it is good enough to be mistaken for belonging to another era and precedent entirely (the landscape before the collapse of the record industry within the game of zones; the ecosystem adjustment still turns the tinkering of time to the scenery)–and it sounds established.”
What it is that keeps an amateur’s status? Think of not-quite-listenable demos that friends hand off before they graduate high school and how they warm toward your ears (clicks, pops, hiss, modulations), acquiring the beauty of any rare recording through rote repetition. Duchamp never patented a gleam, although a price tag usually involves independent research acclaim and an underworld of dendrite tentacle membrane electric (boogie woogie -oogie). ‘Production Values’ used to be a gatekeeper until the acceptance of the bootleggers’ quality, and the sound of space, and too much air moving all over a microphone, not to say wax cylinders could never be ubiked back, or forth, supposing that wax 78s on standard players running 33s or even 45s is far too fast to reproduce groove (and giving cinema sound the illusion tape of the sped up silent soundtracks; a priori acceptance). Meaning that, after the clean, truly noiseless sound recording that apparently R-K-O had built into their soundstages (stages of sound, houses of wave), perfection in digitalizing audio quality was relative to another’s stylistic choice.
‘Household (Brand) Names’ are what they are: tools to distill down to ‘synchronicity of style.’ Where there is something that shows–some dent or scuff that squeaks out in day-to-day (especially today, whew!) self-expression–the item is (m)aligned with the 0-1 of professional:amateur, and which, in a bizarre twist, has nothing to do with the Appreciation factor (which still holds a hardline 1-0 dichotomy elective ballot). The glut of information available for consumption stems a diet tide of the simplest facts (time, memory): the ability for a ‘Household Name’ is a branding adhesive. The next best thing now is a ‘Household Style,’ or the ‘Pandora Pythagoras,’ whereby one fits into a style that can be sought through a matrix of alike elements.
Tritones makes no misstep. There is no fault line, no crack in the foundation. There is no loss of the veneer, no other cliché I can use. This album feels like it had a lot of money spent on’t: even with an amazing amount of time (which–cue my brief nod to the performer’s ability to mount and climax a show–shows) and talent (natch ‘swell) this is not achievable easily. Yet the instruments mix, the elements blend, and the ear cannot help but follow. The ease is apparent. The Trillions waste no energy on needing to grab your attention, and said attention can be spent dissecting and appreciating their pieces.
Seeing The Trillions live (w/ Warren Hixon and The Great White Caps at The Camel, May Day 2013) cemented a need to ask for a copy of their future work to review and disseminate along the airwaves and in homes and spaces for sounds. It reminds me of an claimed anecdote of Thom Yorke’s from a New Yorker article circa the release of Amnesiac: he asked the host the name of the song playing in the background … and they responded that it was “Black Star” from The Bends: he didn’t know his own work, his past oeuvre, offhand. …the hearsay continues! as I paunch the line with this observation: Thombellina was extremely pleased with the encounter. “I’ve always wanted to have something you could have on for a dinner party” is the quote I’ve telephoned into memory.
Wait, what am I saying? (Tie in! Segue!) I could bring this band up at a dinner party to impress the diversity and ability of the local music scene? This band is the next Radiohead? Money equals good? Well, much like the self-assured strut whose moves make Jagger remember cartilage, The Trillions’ Tritones has made the difficult look effortless. This album has, in my slight listening, attached exponentially to me. (“Win Some Lose Some” is a personal favorite.) When those slight keys get upgraded to a gigantic Hammond organ, I am gonna watch this band wherever they perform!
In a ‘questionnaire’ correspondence, guitarist and vocalist Charlie Glenn assures us that the Trillions will be releasing another record this year.
PT : What songs have recently piqued (you or the band) internally, or, have been a cathartic and connective reflection?
CG : Good question. I think all of our new material has been really exciting for us, and perhaps cathartic to perform…. The first album we were definitely stretching our legs, learning to do things we thought we couldn’t, and also testing the waters to see how the audience would respond to certain ideas. We like to write fairly complex parts for ourselves […] and I was worried we might alienate the audience if the parts were too ‘left field.’ But a lot of people seem to like it, so we’re fully opening the taps with the new stuff. I was also scared to play guitar solos, worrying they weren’t en vogue. Feedback has suggested otherwise. So for the new stuff, we’re really beating the shit out of our guitars and drums. More concrete lyrics too. The only way to hear the new material at the moment is to see us live [with] tracks like “Dead Meat” and “Wish You Well,” and audiences are helping us arrange them.
PT : Do you have a thesis a) for the band and b) for Tritones?
CG : a) A Thesis – I had sort of a hypothesis that I tested with The Trillions. I see a lot of acts where, perhaps, [when] a guitar player is obviously working very hard, his fingers will contort to play some strange chord, but you can’t really make it out because of the cymbal wash and amp distortion. I wondered if we broke up the chords into single note harmonies played by two guitars and a bass guitar (and/or vocals) if it would make it easier for the listener to hear. I mean, if you’re going to put in the effort to write some crazy new chord progression, it would be a shame to have it get lost in the noise fog that is a byproduct of any loud rocknroll band. We tested this theory in, well, all our tracks, but it’s most obvious in “Parallelograms,” “Ctrl-X Ctrl-V,” and “For the Better.” I think we proved it works. b) As for Tritones, I guess the reason we called it that is because I like to throw tritone intervals in my chords or melody, somewhere in each composition. I really don’t hear them too often (if ever) in pop songs nowadays. It’s more like an obsessive compulsion to do so less than some artistic statement or experiment, but there you have it – it’s my watermark. You can find one in every track on the record, sometimes buried, other times it’s the main event.
PT : Where were you guys born? What is your favorite vacation destination, and what is your ideal next vacation destination?
CG : The Trillions were born in RVA. Our favorite vacation spot is probably Chris’s backyard with a fridge full of beer and the grill going.
PT : Who are the celebrities or characters (fictional/non-fictional) that represent each band member?
CG : HAHAHAHA. Er…. I’m Kermit the Frog, Chris is Beaker, Robbie is Sam The Eagle, and Joe is the twisted love child of Animal and the Swedish Chef.
PT : What are the artists that appear continuously in your life that a) you cannot find any passion for regardless of their singles [mine is Paul Simon], b) physically repel you, and c) are your role models?
CG : That’s a hard one for me; I can usually find some redeeming feature in some act. Or at least I make it a point to try. (5 minutes pass) Yeah, I’ll have to get back to you on that. How about this … three of us in the band are total freaks about The Beatles. One of us maintains the OPPOSITE opinion. I won’t tell you who.
by Perkus Tooth