My Evil Label Boss suggested Scuttle by noisey prog-rock bastards Trojan Horse for my next nerdy muso write up. Who am I to disobey? I’ve seen Trojan Horse live twice, and they’re bloody good so they are.
What’s similar between The Willows and Scuttle? They’re both a kind of rock, they both sound like a band rather than soloists with backing, neither stick to the pop song formula and unsurprisingly there are elements of your 70s prog rock in places, though I think less so in the ‘orse.
What are the differences? One is the choice of timbres. Even though the instrumentation is basically the same, The Gift present their sounds in a pretty clean way. Every instrument can be heard distinctly. Trojan Horse sound like a band driving the metres into the red. Loud and distorted, echoey and gooey and rich. The studio isn’t just there to record, it’s there to help create the sound.
The other difference is harmonic. The chord choices in The Willows were out of the popular song play book and movement of fourths and fifths was common. The changes in key were likewise, G and C being the tonic notes. Scuttle is a whole different kettle of ball games in this regard. After the intro section in D minor it’s mostly in B minor. The chord choices tend to be a third apart, and the bass isn’t always playing root notes. What’s more there’s lots of use of that lovely sharp fourth in the lead-in to both iterations of the A section. At the end of the intro you get it in the D diminished chord, at the end of the B section we get movement between F# and F.
What effect does that have? It’s less certain. As you’d expect from a song called ‘scuttle’ a lot of this is uneasy. It’s introspective, close, insects-in-your-speakers stuff, not sing-along soaring choruses like the Gift deliver.
The other difference is simply the amount of rock. Trojan Horse are a more raucous affair than The Gift.
Here’s the low down:
Key: D minor with diminished bits
What’s going on? Intro chords from the guitar lead to noise with a d diminished flavour. This is all about the bass riff, as much of the song is.
Key: B minor ish but there’s a modal quality to it and the F# sometimes feels like the tonic.
What’s going on?: It’s still all about the bass! A simple three note bass riff takes us around the notes of a B minor triad with a dead simple but catchy vocal. keys melody. Some arpeggios join in, before it all gives way to a big riff that’s all chromatic but centred on movement from E to C# – another movement of a third, incidentally.
Key: E Minor
What’s going on? This bit’s got more than a hint of dub reggae about it. It’s all psychedelic echo effects, twisty, mucked about drums and again a great bass riff. We then get some harmonised vox and a beat to go with the bass riffing. Once again the guitars and keys are marking out little melodies and little bits of gestural material, and then everyone joins in for a riff centred on B. Before breaking into a great F# Minor/Fminor riff that reminds me a little of The Specials (I am completely ignorant of dub, reggae and similar so I assume there’s more that could be said about that here by someone more knowledgeable that me). A tiny hint of the intro gives way to the next sections.
What’s going on?: Here we recapitulate the material from section A, in a louder, more busy form. As with the Gift, vocals give way to similar melody from the guitar and a big (though not quite sing-along) ending, before everything goes massive with the repeat of that chromatic E based riff.