Math-rock band Tricot formed in Kyoto in 2010, released their debut album in 2013. Their fourth studio album 真っ黒 (Japanese for Pure Black) marks their major label debut. Tricot spent time as an all-female trio, but drummer Yuusuke Yoshida was added in 2017. Yoshida provides the engine for the twin guitar attack of Ikumi “Ikkyu” Nakajima and Motoko “Motifour” Kida and bassist Hiromi “Hirohiro” Sagane.
Tricot told Rolling Stone that their influences include the Eagles (for their harmony arrangements) and Red Hot Chili Peppers, but it’s barely reflected in their sound. They play complex math-rock, with intertwining guitar parts and time signature shifts. Their fast tempos are reminiscent of punk, while Ikkyu’s sweet voice gives them a pop sensibility.
The group changed their writing approach for this record; previously the songs would be written around Motifour’s guitar parts, but for 真っ黒 the melodies were written first. The group’s backing vocals also add more pop candy. Math-rock purists may prefer earlier albums like 2013’s T H E, but Tricot’s balance of melody and muscle on 真っ黒 is exemplary.
Tricot’s strengths are demonstrated on the closing title track, which translates as ‘Pure Black’. The sweet vocal melody is complemented by the group’s sharp musicianship – the cleverly arranged intro and intricate guitar parts work wonderfully to support the song.
Sagane’s virtuoso bass-line opens the record on ‘Don’t Mix! Danger’, a rapidfire punkish opener that’s sweetened by the creative backing harmonies. The group mellow right down on ‘To a Non-Dangerous Town’ – it places Nakajima’s voice in the spotlight, and it’s pretty. The squiggling guitar of ‘One Season’ recalls 1980s King Crimson, but 真っ黒 perfect a math-pop aesthetic here.
It’s far too clever for mass appeal, but 真っ黒 is a terrific major label debut for Tricot. It wouldn’t take much to convince me that Tricot are currently the world’s most accomplished guitar band, and 真っ黒 is an early contender for album of the year.