Kyoto math rock band Tricot’s 真っ黒 (Pure Black) was the first 2020 album I reviewed on this site. There have been other excellent records this year, from HAIM, Owen Pallett, and The 1975, but 真っ黒 is now facing its most serious competition as my favourite album of 2020 from Tricot’s second album of 2020, 10.
Guitarist/vocalist Ikumi “Ikkyu” Nakajima, guitarist Motoko “Motifour” Kida, bassist Hiromi “Hirohiro” Sagane, and drummer Yuusuke Yoshida titled their fifth album 10 to commemorate their 10th anniversary. The band’s impressive chops are used to serve the songs, wound tightly into a sub-forty minute album. Kida’s flexibility as a guitarist, ranging from funky Prince rhythm playing to menacing Robert Fripp riffs, enables the band to bounce between different styles, while Ikkyu’s delivery is simultaneously disarming and unsettling. Hirohiro’s bass-lines are chunky and monstrous, while the band interplay settled instantly with the addition of Yoshida in 2017.
Tricot are able to get some impressive stylistic range out of their four-piece band setup. ‘Agenai (I won’t give it)’ recalls funky 1980s Prince, while the lovely ‘Laststep’ is the only moment of respite in an otherwise hyperactive record. Tricot deliver their idiosyncratic take on pop with ‘WARP’ – funky guitars, a rubbery bass-line, and a very convincing rap from Ikkyu.
Every track works, but the standouts are when Tricot play dense and heavy – ‘Itazura (prank)’ is psychedelic and full of twists and turns, while the closer ‘Karada (body)’ is built around a menacing riff. The experimental ‘Hako (box)’ expands Tricot’s palette with percussion and stacked vocals.
Tricot are a niche band, particularly outside of Japan, but they’re making incredible music right now – cramming virtuoso playing, personality, and hooks into succinct songs.