LIVE: Three Trapped Tigers / Dragons That Make Love To Pandas @ Boileroom, Guildford

By Ollie Connors

Before we get onto the show, due props need to be given to the Boileroom in Guildford. Having staved off the threat of closure from a neighbour’s noise complaint, something that has put paid to a fair few vital local venues, the Boileroom has survived and thrived. Not only is this a place for touring bands and students of the nearby Academy of Contemporary Music college alike to strut their stuff, but also as a co-operative commune where various businesses call home, including a video production team, a t-shirt screen-printing company and a tattoo studio. There’s something quite wonderful about having a stanchion of DIY culture in a particularly staid part of commuter belt Surrey, and this combination of facets sets the Boileroom apart as one of the best suburban venues the South East has to offer.

Just two bands feature on tonight’s bill, the first of which is Dragons That Make Love To Pandas. A friend of ours often says “All band names are awful”, a grandiose, sweeping statement at face value, but on the evidence of this quartet’s moniker, one that may contain some semblance of truth. However, we’ve learned never to judge a book by its cover, and DTMLTP’s music more than makes up for their heinous name. Fusing the British math-rock sounds of TTNG and Tangled Hair to the energy and urgency of American emo legends such as Cap’n Jazz and Snowing, their recently-added vocalist Sean Westall (who also drums in up-and-coming emo-poppers Itoldyouiwouldeatyou) is a charismatic performer, writhing about the stage to the band’s twisting arpeggiated riffs. One of Westall’s conditions for joining was to enforce a name change, so keep your eyes peeled for the re-brand – they may find it easier to get booked if a promoter can actually fit their name on the poster.

Faced with a choice of seeing tonight’s headliners in either the Boileroom or the Scala in King’s Cross, we plumped for Three Trapped Tigers pushing the sound system of a small venue to its limits of strain, and as the trio crash into an intense version of ‘Cramm’ (from their 2012 début full-length ‘Route One Or Die’), we feel absolutely vindicated in our decision. TTT sound monumental in this room, the atmospherics created by the synths of Tom Rogerson and the guitar of Matt Calvert swarm every eardrum and resonate around the venue, as a compact crowd bang their heads in appreciation.

It’s been a long time coming, but the follow-up to the aforementioned début, ‘Silent Earthling’ is finally with us and cuts from this record nestle in nicely alongside old favourites. Whereas the overall sound of ‘ROOD’ was a display of bulldozering brawn, ‘Silent Earthling’ is an altogether more ambient and cerebral affair, reminding us of the change in tack by British math-rock peers Brontide from the sound of ‘Sans Souci’ to that of ‘Artery’. However, their “spacier” turn shouldn’t be mistaken for a loss of effectiveness; the powerhouse technical drumming of Adam Betts, who we’re not sure is entirely human, anchors their instrumental wizardry and maintains Three Trapped Tigers as a formidable force.

With the recent loss of Maybeshewill, the vanguard of the British math/post-rock scene has an empty space, and even though they’re only on their second album, TTT look primed to take that place at the forefront alongside titans such as 65daysofstatic. It’s easy to see why this group have attracted admirers like Bowie producer Brian Eno and Deftones’ Chino Moreno; put simply they are a phenomenon and tonight’s 70 minute set flies by. Even if you’re not too fond of math-rock this might just be the group to get you into it – these Trapped Tigers have been unleashed and are on the prowl. Sleep on this band at your peril.