Over the course of their lush, fiercely original sophomore album “Althaea”, London based duo Trailer Trash Tracys condense a number of disparate styles into music that thrillingly broaches the void between figuration and abstraction. While undeniably beautiful and quite often infectious in parts, this is certainly not pop music by any traditional definition; rather, it appeals to the more intuitive of mind and wild at heart. More than simply becoming a philosophical exercise however, the result is their most ambitious and idiosyncratic body of work to date, one which operates at the very limits of what pop music can be.

Their debut, “Ester”, released in 2012, manifested the band’s approach to making music as a fine balance between chaos and order, laying out a dense and dreamlike ecosystem of Sufi poetry, Solfeggio scales and, floating above it all, Susanne Aztoria’s otherworldly yet emotionally charged vocals. Early singles such as “Strangling Good Guys” and “You Wish You Were Red” proved to be outliers – rather than simply making lo-fi dream pop, the band were instead aiming for something far more subconscious and esoteric, extracting the essence of a perfect pop song and recasting it in a different light entirely. “It cemented what we are about musically: diverse, cinematic and with a pop curiosity”, the band muse now. “Making it was a very important process for us – “Althaea” sounding more mature like it does probably wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for “Ester”’s mistakes and beauty.

Initially conceived as a soundtrack for a film by esteemed cult Filipino director Raya Martin, “Althaea”, sees the band continue their investigations into the farther flung reaches of pop music, with stunning results. If “Ester” was adventurous and exploratory in nature, “Althaea” is its grown up and sophisticated older sister: having embarked on their singular artistic course, with the new album Trailer Trash Tracys consolidate their strikingly unique language and tonal style. “Our music has classic western pop sensibilities in terms of melody, but to offset this we play with the framework and like to push the structures, time signatures as much as possible”. To that end, the band drafted in some new players – the percussionist Bei Bei “Butterfly” Wang and Three Trapped Tigers’ Adam Betts among them – to add another dimension to the recording process, which consisted of adding “layer after layer of instrumentation on a trial and error basis and seeing what could fit”. The album as recorded in the band’s own home studio, Bangalan, in 2015, and mixed the following year by Dilip Harris.

Spanning 10 deeply esoteric tracks, “Althaea” sees the band drift futher afield from traditional song structures to create a new aural lexicon of their own, one as influenced by Filipino carnival music and Latin rhythms as it was by Japanese tropical music from the 80s. The songs demonstrate a characteristic fusion of melody and dissonance, but this time round, they are more amorphous in the way they occupy space, neatly colliding the elegance of modernism with sharply futuristic structures. Much like the ambiguous, seemingly random song titles – “Singdrome”, “Money for Moondogs” nothing in “Althaea”’s world is quite what it seems. Songs like “Smoked Silver” chase each other in an opulent haze of seesawing synths and stuttering beats, stubbornly refusing to resolve themselves, while others, like “Betty’s Cavatina”, seem to heve been built on structures so intricate and fragile they seem in perpetual danger of collapsing in on themselves at any given moment. Even at their most outwardly pop – the pristine “Eden Machine” for instance, or the swooning “Kalesa”, there is a baroque splendour, and heightened sensuality, stemming from Jimmy Lee’s resolutely off-kilter instrumentation and the fact that quite often Aztoria seems to be singing in an alien language entirely of her own creation. “Jimmy defretted his guitar and bass, and towards the end he also started to use Hawaiian lap steel guitar. We were listening to acts like Tsugutoshi Goto and Mariah who inspired us to explore the use of instruments alien to us like the Xylosynth, water percussions and marimabas vibraphones that would be half programmed and half played live by Bei Bei”. 

The interplay of light and dark, the foreign and the familiar, brings forth an album with manifold pleasures, one which rewards repeated listening and further exploration. And even though with ‘Althaea” Trailer Trash Tracys seek to disorient and upend traditional strictures of pop, they have, in their own way, delivered a modern classic anyway.  “When people hear the record we want them to be transported to a place that’s romantic, exotic, unfamiliar but real and welcoming”, they muse. “Someone also mentioned that our album could have been the soundtrack for a film like Wong Kar Wai’s “Days of Being Wild” or Ishamel Bernal. If people feel like this when listening to our music then that’s more than we have ever anticipated”.