Available on: Double Six LP
According to Trailer Trash Tracys, their debut album Ester is built around the solfeggio scale. It’s a complex scale to which western instruments aren’t naturally tuned, and one that sounds rather more like something off the menu at Pizza Express than a structural component of your average East London band’s debut. Whether it underpins the record or not is, quite literally, academic – but self-consciously flagging it up is certainly indicative of TTTs’ desire to set themselves apart from their more ramshackle, pastiche-inclined peers. Coupled with their daft name, it indicates a band that seeks to jar; however, there’s little need for them to overstate their case. While Ester can sometimes be too ambitious for its own good, the best of the band’s unusual innovations genuinely thrill.
Taking the group at their word, many of the songs on the album sound strange enough to warrant mentioning this obscure scale. However, the joy inherent in them comes not from knowing how they were constructed, but the resulting contrasts and sensations they inspire. First track ‘Rolling Kiss The Universe’ is kosmisch and chaotic, almost a free jazz wig-out that eventually comes together around a complex bass groove, satisfying in its brief sense of cohesion and resolution.
‘Strangling Good Guys’ and ‘Engelhardt’s Arizona’ (TTTs have a knack for brilliant song titles, but their singer Suzanne Aztoria’s lyrics are often so obscured that their relevance is limited) are crystalline and kaleidoscopic whilst sticking to TTTs’ generally gloomy, gloaming aesthetic, bringing to mind Unknown Mortal Orchestra covering Deerhunter. The contrast between sharp and soft, old and new, is matched in the record’s artwork – an image of a woman whose movement trails behind her in juddered layers that mimic a video buffering, but combine to look like the plumage of ancient tribal costume.
If there’s one consistent genre with which to align the record, it’s probably shoegaze – ‘Dies In 55’ shares a certain sparkling wonder with Kevin Shields’ score for Lost In Translation but is possessed of a shifting dynamic in the instrumentation that gives it a sense of something more than just bug-eyed euphoria. Comically cheap drum kit sounds trade places with codeine-heavy bass, floating up and down in the mix as casually as lava lamp bubbles. ‘Turkish Heights’ hangs around a similar effect: the journey from the start to the end of the song barely meanders at all, but within its dreamy trajectory are subtler directions, a Twin Peaks soundtrack-quoting bass line waxing and waning around a guitar part that starts sharp and ends softened by the song’s intoxicating tide.
Although it’d be fair to accuse Trailer Trash Tracys of co-opting other people’s ideas by referencing the Twin Peaks OST – that bass line also crops up earlier on the foggy ‘You Wish You Were Red’ – they’re more loyal to David Lynch’s aesthetic than, say, Lana Del Rey, who has often been described as Lynchian. Aztoria sounds like Julee Cruise brought down to earth, and on ‘Starlatine’, the prickly synth washes evoke an unsettling sense of the paranormal rather than dreaminess.
Amid the nuanced, emotive production, however, lie a few shamelessly basic, Spectorite girl-group numbers. ‘Los Angered’ sounds like Best Coast minus Beth Cosentino’s snarl, and debut single ‘Candy Girl’ – originally released over two years ago – pouts like the sweet little sister to 2:54’s more biting approach, and does little to convince you that this lady is worth your tuckshop money. Being the most straightforward songs on the record, they’re the ones that stick in the mind the most come its end, an injustice to an incredibly interesting debut album that’s nearly as clever as its creators intended.