A collaborative effort swelling to include 13 members, the Tied And Tickled Trio is by no means only a triumvirate as the name suggests. Including the prolific family members of Micha Acher (Ms. John Soda) and Markus Acher (The Notwist, Lali Puna), along with a whole slew of other members, the group is a freewheeling melting pot of sound, mixing live instrumentation with programming and pushing the boundaries on jazz, dub, and electronic music. In a pure musical sense, this newest release is many steps beyond either of the groups previous efforts, when it seems that they were still feeling their ground and each member was busy even developing their sound within other groups.
Observing Systems is the sound of a more confident group, and even though there are many different cooks in the kitchen (so to speak), it's easily the tightest effort as well. One need listen to the opening track of "The Long Tomorrow" to realize this, as it's one of many tracks on the release recorded live in studio without any digital post-production. At seven minutes long, piano and sax both get their time to shine over an upright bass strum and minimal percussion. At 7 minutes, the track comes together with a slow simmer, letting off small sparks at the edges without ever really igniting, creating a slow-burn tension that works nicely to open the release.
If the opening track was the spark, then "Revolution" is the slathering of dirtied-up dub that really gets the album going. Mixing some spy-theme horns with squeaky bursts and a rumbling beat, it's playful and juicy at the same time. Despite the somewhat silly title, "Freakmachine" is an exquisite blend of the jazz and dub influences that the band expound upon. A tin-can beat flails in the background while sax and trombones duel it out over the top. Hell, even ska fans would would probably dig it. Interspersed throughout the release are shorter tracks that fall onto the more experimental sides of things, and they mainly act as bridges between tracks (and sometimes not very well). All three parts of "Radio Sun" feel like parts extracted from some minimal Mille Plateaux micro-house track, and although they offer up some variety from the rest of the release, that's about all they offer.
The disc is at its best when it simply lets people do what they're best at. By this point, the group (even though it isn't the "main" group for many of the artists who make an appearance on it) has found that common ground that collectives do when they've been together long enough, and they all take their place and make their additions on tracks like the smooth-flowing "3.4.e." It's loose enough to let everything breath, yet intricate enough that the listener can still hear new things after a few listens. If you're into the slightly leftfield jazz, you won't go wrong here. 15 tracks and almost an hour of great music from the group.