Trupa Trupa

B Flat A

Skulking Gdańsk-based rockers Trupa Trupa sound more evil than ever on latest LP, finds Richard Foster

I last saw Trupa Trupa play back in the summer, at a festival in Germany. The band was billed to play last on a market square after a long day of upbeat pop music and gentle alt-folk. The crowd, who had thus far enjoyed the divertissement from all things Covid, wanted to end their night on a high with some rousing rock music. After a quarter of an hour of the set many sat pulverized and almost catatonic, wondering what this strange rock band with its self-made instruments would throw at them next. Eventually people began to drift off bewildered, their sense of a perfect ending shattered amongst the plastic cups and discarded face masks. Trupa Trupa, as ever a mesmerising mixture of politeness and ruthlessness, grinded on; the crashing percussive rhythms and interlocking melodic patterns weaving a net round those who remained.

Is this band fated to be the antidote to all things nice? Sometimes their music can feel as if we listeners can’t escape it. Their older records regularly showcased a number of fugue-like tracks. I once described ‘Love Supreme’ on 2017’s Jolly New Songs as a funeral march through a Belgian village on a wet November day. With their new record B Flat A, you get the feeling they are quite happy to remind you that existence can often reveal itself to be difficult, if not downright cruel. The personality of one of the album’s standout tracks, ‘Sick’, is shaped by the lachrymose refrain, “I don’t know how to tell you that you’re sick”.

Then there is ‘Uselessness’, a relentless if beguiling polemic, where the arrangement acts like a channel on a fast running stream, forcing home the track’s (titular) message. These circular, repetitive structures and laconic texts often make us feel that we are in one of the end scenes of Andrej Żuławski’s chilling film, The Third Part of the Night where the hero Michal, fleeing his potential captors, runs through a hospital basement corridor only to find a covered body at a dead end. When Michal pulls off the cover he sees a man that could be his doppelgänger. It’s a stifling, hopeless moment, a tableau that reveals a deeper truth about our wider predicament. You can’t escape yourself.

It’s not as if Trupa Trupa make unattractive music. Far from it. They have a happy knack of writing big tunes and can craft melody lines that stick in your head for days. Whereas previous LPs such as Jolly New Songs and 2019’s Of the Sun had ephemeral, all-too-brief moments that shone like sun through the clouds, B Flat A brings a new structure and presence to their songs. This is a rock record unafraid to flex its muscle.

‘All My Uniforms’ is the pied piper track of the set, a tightrope act between simple melody and a dark instrumental rumble that has the feel of alternative American rock acts such as Guided by Voices and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. The record is also quick off the mark with tough, metallic rockers such as ‘Kwietnik’, ‘Moving’, and the metaltastic ‘Twitch’, which regulate and reorder like tractors ploughing a field. Leavening out this tough sound are gentler, more melancholic tracks like ‘Lit’ and ‘Far Away’. The latter has something of a pastoral early Floyd vibe, especially when the chord changes up a gear, hinting at Barrett’s ‘Dominos’.

There is a presence conjured up by Trupa Trupa’s music. And it seems to have made itself more manifest on B Flat A. Maybe the new cover image is a key. Trupa Trupa have previously enjoyed skulking behind symbols, filtered photos or woozy Floyd-esque snapshots, but now we see what looks like an eroded Easter Island head, or an imprint, akin to the Turin Shroud. It’s humanoid, impassive and unbending – much more in keeping with the band’s oeuvre. Is this the band’s truculent soul finally appearing, the genie that they have turned to face? To paraphrase Wittgenstein, it must be there if we are looking for it.

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