|Trans Am — California Hotel (22 April 2017)|
Trans Am — California Hotel (22 April 2017) ΔΔΔΔΔ Trans Am refuse to rely on their legacy as innovators, opting instead to continue to break down established modes of songwriting, even if they established those modes themselves. Trans Am is Phil Manley, Nathan Means, and Sebastian Thomson.Location: Bethesda, Maryland
Album release: 22 April 2017
Record Label: Thrill Jockey Records
01 I Hear Fake Voices 3:46
02 Staying Power 3:17
03 Ship of the Imagination 4:30
04 Alles Verboten 3:36
05 California Hotel 3:19
06 I Want 2B Ignored 4:01
07 Expansions 1:29
08 Rules of Engagement 3:40
℗ 2017 Thrill Jockey Records
Δ Lacquer Cut — Carl
Δ Layout — Sheila Sachs
Δ Mastered — Sarah Register
Δ Recorded, Producer, Mixed — Nikhil Ranade, Trans Am
Δ Issued in a standard cardboard sleeve with a transparent plastic inner sleeve, an insert sheet, and a download code coupon.
Δ All housed in a resealable clear plastic sleeve with circular sticker:
Δ “Limited Color Edition Thrill Jockey”
Δ Transparent golden vinyl with plain white labels.
Δ Tracks are listed sequentially on the insert sheet.
℗ 2017 Thrill Jockey Records
© 2017 Trans Am, Bethesda Music, ASCAP
Δ Trans Am is a band that has never compromised. Originally from North Bethesda, Maryland, Trans Am is considered fathers of the instrumental post~rock sound of the 1990s. Since then the band — Phil Manley, Sebastian Thomson and Nathan Means — has added vocals and spanned genres from metal to house to progressive rock. They exploited Casio keyboards for cacophonous lo~fi sounds. They played fully electronic sets when most of their contemporaries were sticking exclusively to guitars. They pioneered early millennium fad Electroclash. Today, they continue to set their own course.
Δ On California Hotel, Trans Am borrowed ideas from My Bloody Valentine, John Carpenter, DAF, Led Zeppelin, Air, Sade and David Gilmore, among others. The result is an incredibly rich range of sounds that retain a pulsating energy.
Δ California Hotel was constructed in four one~week bursts that took place over two years deep in San Francisco’s El Studio. Bits and pieces of songs like “Expansions” and “Alles Verbotten” were recorded during live jams, lost due to unique file management and remerged for inspection and improvement — often multiple times.
Δ El Studio boasts a large live room designed for this type of recording. The space is also stocked with a wide variety of vintage analog synths — from Moog to Micro~Korg to Crumar and beyond — from which Trans Am was able to create a vast palette of Klangfarben.
Δ But the album was also shaped by outside forces. The guitar parts for “Ship of the Imagination” were written in Portland, Oregon at a table overflowing with beer and pizza. “Rules of Engagement” was written in a cramped Brooklyn apartment just a few days before the last session.
Δ At the beginning of the final week~long mixing session for the album in November 2016, it was mostly unfinished. Trans Am used the time pressure to their advantage. The energy from “I Hear Fake Voices,” for example, comes in part from the song being composed as it was being tracked. The band tweaked arrangements and parts until the song presented itself. The track was written, recorded and mixed in about five hours.
Δ In an effort to “get back to their roots” some songs were recorded live to analog tape. The basic tracks for most songs were recorded live, in an attempt to capture Trans Am’s “X~factor Rock ’n’ Roll serpent energy.” All musicians were playing in the same room at the same time with a minimum of overdubs. This decision was partly choice and partly necessity due to time constraints.
Δ The album’s title pays homage to late Eagles founder, guitarist and vocalist Glenn Fry — the “forgotten death” of 2016, a year in which artists including David Bowie, Lemmy, Prince and George Michael also left us.
Δ The 2016 election returns came in on the first night of Trans Am’s session. The band watched the initial returns coming while eating burritos in El Studio’s living room. Over the rest of the evening, they skipped between the live room and living room keeping track of the election. They were trying to get a take of “Staying Power” but eventually became so distracted that they had to stop. By then, Donald Trump had been elected. They rode home with a driver who was joking about losing his healthcare and being deported.
Δ The next day, Trans Am came back in — still a little shocked — and managed to nail “Staying Power” on the first take. Politically, they had been transported back to their roots: a slightly out~of~place funk~metal band playing 1980’s hard core shows in Washington, DC that protested the conservative politics of Reagan and Bush~era America. The band was also witness to the 9~11 attacks on the Pentagon, recording the song “Afternight” the next day at their downtown Washington, DC studio.
Δ The night of the 2016 election, Sebastian sent out an Instagram message that Trans Am had been through this sort of thing before — and they would make it this time as well. Over the next week, they recorded California Hotel.
Δ The band has donated a track to the “A Song a Day Keeps the Pain Away” series, the proceeds of which go to The Southern Poverty Law Center.
Written by Paul Scott~Bates, 25 March, 2017; Score: 9/10
Δ Talk about an opener! Straight in, no lubrication, no kissing, just an instantly pounding, distorted, vocoderised punk tune. Filled with a bit of My Bloody Valentine, just a pinch, and flying forwards in a cacophony of intense electric guitars and synths I Hear Fake Voices is a totally amazing synth~prog tune with massive production and Trans Am are on form already. Entering into Staying Power we have a dirty bass awash with chorus, harmonised distorted guitars and a roomy and great sounding drum kit. It’s like all the great alternative underground music has come rushing back with a bang and it’s fantastically timeless, pushes convention and keeps you listening.
Δ Ship Of The Imagination has such a tasty synth opening it up and the drums are so lush they really drive it along. Hypnotic bass, sexy riffs and an early~Genesis meets The Ex thrusts it into the stratosphere and when it drops you could almost shit yourself. It turns into Doctor Who meets Steve Reich at one point. Crazy music with no boundaries…the best kind. ‘Alles Verboten’ could almost be what Big Black might have sounded like if they’d been led by Earth~destroying robots from a post~apocalyptic future of industrial destruction. Its gritty, raw, prog~disco~punk hyphenated Ozric Tentacles madness is almost too much to handle so it’s a nice escape into California Hotel. To be honest escaping into the California Hotel would be like walking into a scene from some surreal David Lynch movie with all the vintage synthesizers, swirling pads and electronic drum machines. It’s a mellow, slightly creepy ethereal trip and let’s you float away for a bit.
Δ I Want 2B Ignored is like music for androids. Sad, lonely androids. Androids who want to cut their wires and let themselves short circuit in the pulsing tones of melancholy sweetness. Melodic vocoder vocals repeat over the top of droning synths that build and build into normal human vocals and end up fading away in a sea of reverb. Gorgeous. Then Expansions arrives and it’s like some bizarre version of I’m Not In Love by 10CC but playing as you’re having some kind of sleep paralysis with demons arriving at the bottom of your bed. It’s a short one and a half minute interlude before Rules Of Engagement finishes the album in a sultry, synth fuelled ’90’s vibe. It has a massively authentic sound and wouldn’t go amiss on the soundtrack to Stranger Things with it’s deep groove and almost Eastern scales. It’s quite sad when it all ends to be honest so starting it from the beginning again is highly recommended. Play, listen, repeat. What an album. Welcome back Trans Am. Δ http://louderthanwar.com/
Richard Fontenoy, 21 April 2017
Δ Even as they fade out on the cyclical instrumental electronica of “Rules Of Engagement”, Trans Am still keep things interesting, Thomson’s percussive dexterity flickering among the rippling keyboards and bass kick drops in a finale that is both heavy and laced with melodic tranquillity. California Hotel is the sound of a band keeping on keeping on, and doing so with a certain amount of gusto and a keen ear for when not to go too far; what else could they do, given the circumstances? (excerpt)
Phil Manley: http://www.philmanley.com/
|Trans Am — California Hotel (22 April 2017)|