I woke up this morning (don’t worry, my ‘dawg hasn’t died’, my woman hasn’t ‘gone left me’ and I haven’t woken up in the Deep South of the USA in the depression era), the sun was shining and I thought to myself, what a wonderful day. It got me thinking about how the weather can affect your moods for better or worse, we all want to turn over and go back to sleep when we wake up to cold, wet day outside, don’t we?
Don’t you think the same applies to music?, the first time I listen to a completely new band I have never heard before, after the first couple of tracks, it can be a mood determining album. Morose, depressive music will engender a similar mood in you whereas, light and entertaining music will see you happily tripping along. Well, last week an email pinged into my inbox and, upon the first listen, I found a smile creeping across my face and a feeling of contentment completely enveloping me. What music could possibly have that effect on me I hear you ask? (go on, humour me!) it happens to be Italian band Tryptamin and their debut album Monday Hangover which came out of left field as a totally unexpected delight.
Tryptamin is an Italian band from Piacenza, formed in 2008 by vocalist and keyboard player Pietro Beltrami. Two of Beltrami’s long time musical friends, Michael Fortunati (guitar) and Daniele Brolli (bass) helped develop his musical ideas and, when Bruno Cabrini (drums) and Marcello Lega (guitar) completed the group, the band recorded 2 self-titled EPs in 2009 & 2011. Bruno was replaced on drums by Federico Merli and, on September 6th 2013, ‘Monday Hangover’, the band’s long awaited debut album, came to fruition.
The innovative sound of Tryptamin combines alternative rock, indie-prog, post-metal, ambient, electronica and jazz and crosses traditional boundaries to produce something fresh and singular. Let’s see whether it is a unique symbiosis of styles or a mish-mash that doesn’t really work.
First track The Hole has a serious synth pop, upbeat and cheery keyboard heavy intro that would be reminiscent of The Sisters of Mercy if they’d taken a happy pill, it is uplifting and immediately transmits an energetic flow to the listener like a headlong rush. Just when you think it might be an instrumental the brakes are hauled on and the vocals kick in, this guy sounds more laid back and Californian than any resident I’ve ever heard. His voice has a laconic delivery and, as the synth pop moves more into a grungy, industrial metal style, the vocal sound follows becoming harder and gruffer. The track moves through ambient inspired lulls and harder edged electronica to produce something that I can honestly say I haven’t heard before, yes, I’ve heard the individual styles but, not all in one place. I like what I’m hearing but, let’s see if the band can pull off a whole album. The ambient, off kilter feel continues with Girl Shaped Shell, an introduction that has cinematic scope then moves seamlessly into pop rock keeps you guessing as to what’s coming next. Beltrami has a voice that speaks volumes, easily transcending the different musical styles that the band traverse to convey meaning and intent, soulful and melancholy in the pared back sections yet, powerful and intense when required by the industrial rock sections that intersperse this track. Just when you think you’re getting the gist of this band, they throw in a classy piano that you’re not expecting and follow it up with a powerful chorus that is backed by a wall of sound.
Third track Driver is the first video released from the album and has a chiming synth and dancing bassline to introduce the song, the vocal comes in over this catchy beat, an insistent, urgent vocal that is followed by a super smooth pop-rock vibe, like Pearl Jam if grunge had been a happy sound. It is funky and punk inspired at the same time, you have to hear it to understand where I’m coming from, Bertrami once again proving what a skilful singer he is, moving smoothly between hard rock and funk vocals with hardly a pause as the band continue to deliver on their initial promise. Things are taken down a notch with Mail Received at 4am, a gentle introduction epitomised by the strings and acoustic guitar that lead in this laid back song. A heartfelt and emotional vocal catches the heart strings as this delightful track continues, the violin effectively imbues a soul to the performance as your mind is transfixed by the tender and placid effect that the track has on you. As the final notes ring out I find myself in an a ocean of calm.
Viral has a distorted introduction, the voice over followed by a coruscating guitar and grunge like vocal. It is like organised chaos yet always tuneful, almost as if you’re caught in the middle of an electrical storm, buffeted on all sides yet retaining a modicum of calm. It is at this point, however, that the chains are released and your inner child is let loose as the song becomes a maelstrom of musical madness, eventually coming to an abrupt halt before a calm serenity descends on proceedings and the final part of the track is like a sci-fi soundtrack. A seriously jazz inspired piano note introduces The Day We Met on the Staircase, the ever so placid drums and radiogram inspired voice have you in a jazz cafe amidst lush overtones, silky and creamy. This song really generates a feeling of total relaxation as all your trials and tribulations disappear into the background. The piano is an absolute delight, tinkling across your psyche and being the major foil for the super smooth vocal. As the track nears the end it becomes more forceful with the strings providing added focus, it is an excellent track and unlike anything you would expect. Water on the Sun is a seriously upbeat track that screams sunny days at you from the start. The guitars are light and cheerful, the drums almost playful and the vocal has a power pop feel, catchy and full of bonhomie, especially on the super cool chorus. There are harder edged sections where the guitar riffs power along and the pace of the song never let’s up, another great song that showcases the band’s talents effectively.
Armchair begins with a chiming guitar and laid back keyboards, the vocals kick in almost with a feeling of angst being held back, catching and effective, things take a turn as the guitars fire in compact riffs and Beltrami’s voice blossoms into something more urgent and authoritative. It is a song that has it’s roots in an alternative rock world that almost veers into punk on the more abrasive sections, the guitars crashing and grating and sees Beltrami almost spit the words out, like Viral, the track finishes on an ambient note that, this time, seems totally at odds with what has gone before. This interesting fusion of musical styles comes to a close with Ten Years in One Day and, true to form, we have something slightly different again, the direct vocal is backed by a piano that trips along as urgency is injected into the track. There is a feeling of anticipation, waiting for something to happen as the piano meanders along backed by the keyboards, suddenly the piano and vocal become more impelling and insistent and the guitar kicks in along with the drums to bring things to a head, almost to a boiling point and then the heart rate is bright back down to normal as the track runs out to a somewhat ignominious end, after the satisfaction of everything that has preceded it, the ending to the album is slightly disappointing.
So, to sum up Tryptamin and they’re debut album Monday Hangover, these guys have produced something different to the norm that, in the majority, is refreshing and a clever amalgamation of musical styles. What they have done is take a risk and, I am pleased to say, it was definitely worth it, if they carry on in a similar vein then, I am sure we will have plenty of listening pleasure to come.