TTNG – Disappointment Island: Exclusive Album Stream

The Oxford-based math rock three-piece stream their new album exclusively with The Independent

Remfry Dedman
Tuesday 05 July 2016 18:14 BST
TTNG, from left to right, Tim Collis
TTNG, from left to right, Tim Collis

The long-awaited third LP from TTNG (FKA This Town Needs Guns) is finally released on 8th July via Sargent House, and The Independent are exclusively streaming it three days before official release. Disappointment Island is the first album to feature the band as a trio after former bassist Jamie Cooper left in 2011 and was written in two sessions two years apart. One session took place at the beginning of 2013 and the other in 2015, with the band entering the studio to record later that year. Disappointment Island was recorded live to tape over 10 days at Chicago’s pre-eminent Electrical Audio studios by Greg Norman (Mclusky, Russian Circles, Pelican) and mastered by Shellac’s Bob Weston and, unbelievably, is named after a real uninhabited island off the south coast of New Zealand. Employing barely any distortion or guitar effects, the supremely intricate technical playing of guitarist Tim Collis makes for a beautifully wistful yet mathematically elaborate bedrock for bassist / vocalist Henry Tremain’s mellifluous tones and drummer Chris Collis’s atypical drumming patterns.

The artwork was created by Ukrainian artist and illustrator Irena Zablotska. ‘She’s a great artist’ says Chris. ‘We came across her artwork quite randomly one day. We always wanted to use it as the album cover, even before we had the title for the album. In fact, we had joked about Disappointment Island for quite a long time after we saw it on a map. When we were discussing possible titles, Tim remembered Disappointment Island, and at first we said ‘there’s no way we could call it that!’ But the more we let the idea sit, the more we liked it. It seemed to bring everything together really well - encapsulating the artwork, the lyrical content, and our struggles and stresses getting the album written and recorded. Recording live to tape was very pressured - trying to get all three of us playing perfectly all the way through was quite a challenge! In the end I am very proud of what we achieved and this album would not have happened without the great encouragement and support of our loved ones.’

Drummer Chris Collis provided us with a track-by-track analysis of the album...

Coconut Crab

The title of this song came about after my best friend was standing in line at the post office and over heard a small child singing this amazing made up song about Coconut Crabs. Obviously, I had to look up what a coconut crab was and see if it was real - and it is! During my research on this massive arthropod, I discovered a story saying that it was believed that coconut crabs were responsible for hiding the remains of famed aviator Amelia Earhart, who disappeared in 1937 while attempting to circumnavigate the globe along the equator.

A coconut crab pictures in Aldabra, Seychelles

Coconut Crab was from the second session, and was initially written by me and Tim, with Henry putting bass and vocals on afterwards. During recording, we decided that this would be the opening track for the album as it was a good introduction to the theme of the record from a lyrical perspective and it ties in with the island idea too.

A Chase of Sorts

This track was one of the first we wrote back in 2013 Brighton session. It’s driven nearly all the way through by the main guitar riff Tim wrote. It took me a good day or two to get my head around it and find something to play over it which fitted. He always comes up with these totally mind-bending riffs, and he never counts things so we end up with riffs that have things like 22.5 beats in them - so this song was quite hard to figure out at first. The structure is pretty straight forward, which I think is the case for most of the songs on this record. The songs themselves are quite basic in their arrangement - but it’s the interplay between the guitar and bass riffs which makes the songs so complex, even if they do sound quite simple on first listen. I like to think that people will discover new things the more they listen to the album. We never set out to actively write complicated parts, it is just how Tim and Henry both play, and what happens when the three of us get together to write music.

Consoling Ghosts

This song, if I remember correctly, was something that was just jammed out one day in our rehearsal space. This is something we hardly ever do - usually we will have a guitar riff or riffs to organise and work from, but this song was different. I think it started with a bassline that Henry had come up with Tim either creating the guitar on the fly whilst listening to us jam or adapting a previous riff he had written to fit over the bass better. The song kind of progressed quite organically from there and almost wrote itself.

In Praise of Idleness

Originally this song was called ‘Frog Socket’ after an electrical mishap led to the insane discovery of a frog living inside the wall socket. The song has many riffs and seems to continually change with only the first and second sections making a reappearance. This song was heavily discussed during writing and we spent an age trying to find the best way to make everything fit together and be coherent whilst progressing forward. Even though ‘Frog Socket’ was one of our favourite titles, Henry suggested the present title after being inspired by Bertrand Russell’s essay, which acted as the basis for the lyrics for this song.

Whatever, Whenever

Another song from the Brighton session of 2013. We sat on these half-finished songs for a good while, not really sure if we liked them or wanted to scrap the whole lot and start over. This was a song that did not change at all since the demo, except that we wanted to add a section before the slow crescendo at the end. Henry was jamming out some bass line and me and Tim tried out some things over the top. The result is the second section of the song, and one that we extended out so it became its own entity. I feel this song has nice extremes to it - the first section is full of notes on both guitar and bass with a simple drum beat so as to give the music space to breathe and not over complicate things. It has an almost Caribbean feel to it, which contrasts with the second and third sections which build slowly and are very repetitive. I always liked music which repeats over and over and just as you’re getting bored, your mind shifts and you enter an almost meditative state where the repetition becomes like a mantra - you could listen to it forever and never tire of it. The second section of this song is one I wish we had extended to even more ludicrous lengths, so as to get to this meditative point.

Irena Zablotska's artwork provides the cover for Disappointment Island

Bliss Quest

When we first wrote this song, I’m not sure any of us were actually that keen on it. After those Brighton sessions, we did a lot of touring and had a break from those songs. When we were searching through material and ideas for this new album, I found the old recording of it and fell in love with the song. This track is unchanged from the demo, but it took us some time to learn how to play it again. This was a song I was not sure would make it onto the album, but after hearing it recorded with vocals, it’s actually become one of my favourites now.

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There’s No ‘I’ in Time

Another song with a mind bending riff from Tim. The second riff in this song took me a while to understand. I gave up trying to count it out and just tried to play along with Tim through feel. The segue between this track and the track before was written by Tim on this crazy new pedal he had just got called a ‘Count To 5’ by Montreal Assembly. It was always intended to be an introduction to this track, but it was a complete coincidence that it matched up in key with the end of the track before. I love coincidences like that, unplanned awesomeness!

Sean Connery as Zed in 'one of the greatest films ever made' Zardoz

Destroy the Tabernacle!

Titled after a line from possibly one of the greatest films ever made, ‘Zardoz’, the 1974 movie by John Boorman. I think we could probably write a whole album inspired by this movie alone. The track is quite a departure for us from our usual style, the feel of the song hardly deviates throughout. It was born from a riff we wrote a long time ago which we just couldn’t get away from. Every time we heard it, we’d say ‘we have to use this somehow!’ One day, we decided to work on it and just see where it took us and this song is the result. The bass and drum breaks in it have that meditative state quality about them where you can really just lock into the repetition.

Sponkulus Nodge

Three men were captured by a wizard and held captive in his castle. Pleading for their lives the wizard gave them one chance to live. He put the three men blindfolded on a staircase all facing down the stairs. One man on the top step, one man 1/2 way down, and the third man on the bottom step.

He then put a hat on each man, with a possible combination of either 2 red hats and 1 white hat or 2 white hats and 1 red hat. He told them when he removes the blindfolds they have 5 seconds to tell him exactly which hat they’re wearing without guessing (he’s a wizard, he’ll know if they’re guessing), turning around, or talking to each other. If any of them can identify which hat they’re wearing they’re all set free, if not, they all die.

He pulls the blindfolds off and starts counting. 1……2…..3…..

At 3 seconds in, the middle man yells out what colour hat he’s wearing and he’s correct.

Empty Palms

The last track on the album and a fitting one for us as one of our great friends came up to Chicago to record this song with us. Another song which is unchanged from its original state as a demo. I think we all knew this would always be the last track of the album. I loved this song from the moment we wrote it. I love the melancholy of it, and Henry’s vocals are perfect in sentiment and melody. The last few lines of the song really capture something for me - the sadness of losing your loved one. ‘Two holding hands, now halved. Two empty palms apart.’

Disappointment Island, the third album from TTNG, is released via Sargent House on 8th July and is available to pre-order on Vinyl/CD from the US and UK/Europe webstore, as well as iTunes now. Their US tour with Lite in support begins on 21st July in at Thee Parkside in San Francisco

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