A highly skillful album but not one for the masses.
Gemma Padley 2007-12-19
The first 'proper' album from one of the most interesting experimental acoustic electronica duos of the last few years has been pulled from the Domino archives and given a new lease of life. Tiger My Friend, originally released in January 2005, combines odd, sometimes uncomfortable fractured rhythms spliced together with the even more curious sounds of children's toy instruments. 'Toytronica' as it has been dubbed is the sound of Psapp who skillfully draw upon toy guitars/flutes/xylophones, kitchen implements and a whole host of miscellaneous objects to produce their unique if somewhat skewed sound.
Duo Carim Clasmann and Galia Durant waste no time contemplating whether what they are doing makes musical sense – more often than not it doesn't – but somehow the incongruous fragments come together in a harmonious whole. "Rear Moth" with its interspersed stuffed-toy squeaks is, to the uninitiated ear, a little surprising. Any sense of normality is displaced by the Psapp trademark twisted shifting rhythms shuffling along with a mischievous air, om-like vocal padding and country-fair inspired strings in tow. The track has a certain Sufjan Stevens melodic charm.
The disjointed samba leanings of "About Fun" with its sampled kitten-sounding squeals and improvisatory piano riff is odd but strangely pleasing. One of the more explicitly jazztronica tracks on the album, it anticipates the swung textures of tracks like "Needle And Thread" on subsequent album The Only Thing I Ever Wanted.
Perhaps the most memorable track is the brilliantly inventive "King Kong" with its jungle trekking rhythms, an approach echoed on the equally beguiling "Chapter". But Tiger, My Fiend is not all Matthew Herbert experimentation; nestled beside the more absurd tracks are those with a quieter more slinky lounge-jazz feel; "The Counter" with its beautifully absorbing piano melody and glockenspiel silver trail is a breath of fresh air from the tick-tock workings of the rest of the album.
Steeped in a gentle undulating pensiveness, Tiger My Friend has a bleary-eyed dazed quality but is thankfully uncontrived. The unfussy quirky instrumentation and simple cylindrical melodic fragments create an intensity bubbling just below the surface. Every tiny fragment is carefully placed creating uniquely woven canvases. A highly skillful album but not one for the masses.