Tricot, pronounced Tree-Coh (like the French word for “knitting”), is a math rock band from Japan. Formed in 2010 by three Kyoto musicians, they began to make waves as soon as they started releasing music. The original trio consisted of vocalist and guitarist Ikumi Nakajima, guitarist Motoko Kida, and bassist Hiromi Sagane. In 2017, drummer Yuusuke Yoshida joined the group. Their early success led to numerous offers from record labels soon after the band’s formation, but out of a desire to maintain control and freedom over their work they decided instead to go down the indie route, and began their own label: Bakuretsu.
Listening to Tricot is in some ways a familiar and nostalgic experience, but in other respects it’s a breath of fresh air from the often homogenous math rock scene in the west. Math rock, for the uninitiated, is a descendant of prog-rock and post-punk that is often paired with mid-west emo. The genre tends to put a lot of emphasis on extended chords, angular melodies, interesting time signatures and guitar tapping to create beautiful soundscapes. It’s often then accompanied by the lyrical and vocal angst of emo to create—what sounds to me—like virtuosic pop-punk. While I enjoy some acts in the genre, I find that a lot of the artists and songs tend to blend together into a stream of indistinguishable high-reverb minor nine chords and tapping melodies.
Tricot, though, is one of the acts that stand out. The band’s music really has two cultural origins: American Emo and the wider contemporary Japanese music scene. Nakajima said in an interview with Fader that growing up one of her favourite bands was ‘System Of A Down’ and that influence shows through her music. Like most math rock groups, they employ the sounds of emo and the philosophy of prog-rock, but Tricot goes one step further by adding the polish of pop. At the same time, however, the influence of Japanese contemporary music is also pretty clear. There’s a very specific sound to contemporary Japanese music that can be heard in everything from Japanese video game soundtracks to J-rock to J-pop, and anyone experienced with those sounds will notice it in Tricot. For someone like me who grew up listening to his older brother’s iPod collection of emo and pop-punk while spending all day watching anime, the atmosphere of their music brings me back to my preteen years while the individual songs also capture my ears’ attention even as an older listener.
What makes Tricot fun to listen to is the amount of diversity they bring to what is often a stale genre. They are able to jump between a shiny pop-punk sound, powerful J-rock anthems, and full-on emo. Sparkling guitar licks and groovy bass lines aside, a lot of credit needs to go to Ikumi Nakajima on vocals. The variety she brings is incredible as she effortlessly moves between buttery smooth verses, graceful choruses, and all-out gut-wrenching screams. She can mold herself to what the music requires. All in all, Tricot puts out some of my favourite indie-rock right now and I cannot recommend them (and specifically their latest album Makkuro 真っ黒) enough.
Written by: Ammar Mooraj