“ttt” review – Monolith Cocktail
The Polish outfit Trupa Trupa fashion their very own Faust Tapes out of an accumulation of sonic explorations, unfinished jams and rehearsal sessions, field recordings and play, off the back of their highly acclaimed (made my choice albums list of 2022) B Flat A album last year.
In the interval between recording new martial ttt is an almost seamless cassette offering of two experimental sound collages – coming in at just under the forty-minute mark. A development played out under the spell of psychedelic hallucination, mirage and more caustic machined distortions and abrasions, the triple “ts” experiment could be read as a really untethered avant-garde outlet for the band. Not that they’ve ever been conventional on that front with previous works melding and contorting, as they do, psych with no wave, post-punk, the industrial and indie to produce a multi-limbed psycho drama or revelation, the hypnotic and propulsive.
In fact, and as this latest couplet of suites proves, Trupa Trupa have always managed to layer the meta, whether its been on the Syd Barrett-esque succinct voiced lyricism of the whirled kooky ‘Uniforms’ (from B Flat A) or the heavy guitar wrangled, Swans cover The Church, ‘Remainder’ (from the 2019 album Of The Sun). Of The Sun, as I wrote at the time, even has a sort of Can Unlimited track called ‘Angle’, which wouldn’t sound out of place on this tape. As it also happens, Can’s late tape manipulator, early sampler and cut-up doyen, Holger Czukay was born in the band’s home city of Gdansk (albeit when it was the known as the Free City of Danzig), a fact that can’t have escaped them, especially as the already mentioned off-cuts, experimental threads compilation of Unlimited and indeed Can themselves could well be a heavy influence.
De facto spokesman, point of contact for me, Grzegorz Kwiatkowski mentions similar(ish) musical and visual experiments in this field by Glenn Gould (The Idea Of North) and The Beatles (‘Revolution 9’), both of which I can detect: to a point. But this is most definitely the spliced and continuously assembled world of Trupa Trupa, both in the metaphysical environments and psychogeorgaphy of Gdansk and out on the road. With that in mind, sides A and B suggest a radio free Europe of transmissions, dialled in emergent glimpses of ideas and rehearsal space workouts with industrialisation, mystery and the recondite.
Part A begins with a looping guitar that almost trips over itself, and cooed, mooning and aaah’d voices – a sort of outsider art form of primitivism and the psychedelic. Soon the atmosphere changes into a form of metal machine music, with a mysterious darkened funnel of Scott Walker and Sun O))) and a sharp static Lynchian scratch of something alien, and perhaps ominous. As it goes on the mood shifts from Cosey Fanni Tutti and Kluster to the lo fi-ness of Sonic Youth and the Red Crayola; later on it’s incipient stirrings of space rock Hawkwind and ADII. A knocking tool, utensil sounds like it’s hitting a wooden fence panel by the end of this journey.
Over to side B and strung-out voices and the sound of tape itself make way for a dreamy, jazzy session of enervated psych-gospel. A recent Radiohead vibe and Can evocations merge for a played-out musical performance that wanders almost listlessly into a cosmic peregrination. But then something almost daemonic tries to contact us through the Fortean Times radio set, and we’re back in more esoteric territory. Answer machine or a fax or photocopier set of stretched bleeps repeat across a pulsating passage of ambience after that, but makes way for a spike of backbeat Suicide and a squall of windy distortion. A finale wash, flow of voluminous water pours over a reflective environmental outro. You can hear a soft, almost peaceable guitar being strummed delicately in a troubadour style as thoughts meander against the hidden backdrop of a fountain, or a waterfall, or even a watermill – maybe none of these -; a gushing stream of consciousness balanced against gentler trials and errors in music making.
Reminisces, vignettes of a particular time and place; what could have been an evanescent moment lost; radiophonics and the extemporised are all captured within the unburdened perimeters of Trupa Trupa’s unlimited world of sound exploration. An intriguing “annex” as it were to the sonic, literary, philosophical, and historical interlayering processes of this Polish band, ttt offers, nee suggests ever more experimental avenues and an alternative release of the group’s inner workings; a sort of non-linear (off)roadmap to a “lost highway” and a mysterious European trauma. And yet for a band synonymous with grappling with the difficult questions, the evils of legacy (especially when confronting episodes from Poland and Europe’s history in relation to Kwiatkowski’s own Concentration Camps heritage) this tape is a mostly congruous affair.
Trupa Trupa are in their ascendency all right, their creative collective consciousness constantly dreaming up fresh ways of hearing and articulating the wastelands of what was once called civilisation; the discourse all but filtered out for the most part on this immersive experience. They can do no wrong it seems at the moment, and must be considered one of the most important bands to emerge from Europe in the last decade. On the strength of this latest release it will be very interesting to know where they will go next.