Juding a Band By Its Name
Let's just get it out of the way first: yes, Trailer Trash Tracys is a truly terrible band name. The kind that prejudices potential listeners against ever listening: 'Why bother with a band who chose a name so awful? Doesn't the awful name suggest a complete lack of taste?' In an era of information (and sound-file) overload, snap decisions are routine, and choosing to skip over a band named —seriously, what were they thinking?— Trailer Trash Tracys seems wise; a book judiciously judged by its cover.
Yet, Trailer Trash Tracys subvert every expectation that comes with their chosen name. They are not a joke band, nor are they some trashy garage-rock outfit, nor are they utterly wretched. Instead, they are a curious, quizzical, fascinating listening proposition; a band so interesting that they end up transcending their terrible name. In fact, they go beyond that: they actually give thoughtful, thematic heft to their adolescent handle.
The Eclectic Circus
Trailer Trash Tracys are effectively the work of Jimmy Lee and Suzanne Aztoria, a couple from London who approach recording as an endless experiment of infinite variables. The back-story to their debut LP, Ester, comes filled with tales of versions built, scrapped, abandoned, rehabilitated; of permutations and variations; of wacky hijinks (solfeggio scales! animal orchestra!) and a distrust of cliché.
There's something familiar, circa 2012, of artists at play with the eclectic —the band citing "the transitionary period of analogue to digital in Western pop music and Sufi Poetry" as key influences— but, even still, Trailer Trash Tracys make strange combinations of their manifold component parts. As musical magpies, Lee and Aztoria don't just raid genres, biting whole chunks from familiar forms. Instead, they construct irregular shapes anew; all their found materials and odd angles thrown together with with a sense of intense restlessness.
Towers of Our (Solfeggio) Tuning
At bare bones, their music is built on melodic basslines, a rickety drum-machine, and Aztoria's simple, sweet voice; which leaves Trailer Trash Tracys sounding —especially when the bass gets near-funky— a little like Young Marble Giants. But where YMG were an austere proposition built on negative space TTT fleck their musical canvases with countless details.
Befitting a pair who're constantly recording, Lee and Aztoria load the record with ending instances of sonic minutia; ambient noises, decaying tones, kitchen sink clatter; a layer of detritus that dirties up Aztoria's pristine singing.
The real comparison, then, is to Broadcast: Aztoria/Lee sharing the same impish, inquisitive spirit as Keenan/Cargill; that same sense of recording as divination of this world and creator of another. Yet, where Broadcast are defined by their quintessential Englishness —authoring a mythical soundworld steeped in the Wicker Man soundtrack and BBC Radiophonic Workshop incidentals— Trailer Trash Tracys are as interested in notions of Americana.
Yet Something is Different
A key influence on Ester is Angelo Badalamenti's soundtrack work for David Lynch movies. "Candy Girl" makes the homage obvious, playfully borrowing the iconic bassline from the Twin Peaks theme; and it also borrows Lynch's own artistic spirit, running familiar tropes of the American dream —in this case, the jukebox ballad— through a nightmarish filter. In such, Trailer Trash Tracys' lamentable name makes some kind of conceptual sense: this just another cliché of American foisted on the world, that the band are playfully toying with.
And the album is playful. And perverse. And pleasing, too; the record striking in how it's only slightly odd. This is the effect listening to Ester: a pop record that manages to, in spite of its melody and harmony and lovely singing, put you at unexpected unease. Due to Trailer Trash Tracys' working ways and inability to play things straight, there's a slightly 'off' sensibility that persists in the experimental tendencies, odd tuning, or inscrutable dreaminess. There's countless devils in the album's infinitesimal details, and they make simply listening a bedeviling experience. Which makes this pop music in form only; and vague form at that. In execution, and spirit, Ester is something else entirely.
Record Label: Double Six/Domino
Release Date: January 17, 2012