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Trans Am — Volume X

Trans Am — Volume X (May 20, 2014)

United States                          Trans Am — Volume X
•ð•   Existují tři způsoby, jak interpretovat Volume X, název nového alba Trans Am. •ð•   První je zřejmý — je to desáté studiové vydání kapely, deset nových písní, které zobrazují deset jedinečných stránek jeho členů (Phil Manley, Nathan Means a Sebastian Thomson). Můžete si také představit volume/ovladač hlasitosti: je zalomený celou aretací nahoru, úroveň zesílení pro poslech Trans Am ideální. Ale můžeme to také číst jako reprezentaci kapely a jejich pozoruhodnou schopnost vyjádřit a dokonce i ztělesňovat neznámé zdroje kapacity: přijímání odvážných stylistických a estetických posunů jako určujícího principu jejich čtvrtstoletí dlouhé kariéry. Trans Am odmítají spoléhat na svůj vlastní odkaz jako inovátorů. Místo toho zvolili, aby zavedené způsoby skládání prolomili, i když oni tyto režimy založili sami. Volume X pokračují v této slavné tradici jít "proti proudu" a představí fanouškům podivné, ale celkem známé zvuky v nových souvislostech, od kosmische/kraut rocku až po futuristický speed metal a robo–balladry variantu na klasický rock, které jsou tak pokřivené, že mají být předloženy zcela k nepoznání.
Formed: 1990 in Wasington, D.C.
•ð•   Chicago trio whose fixation with science fiction, classic prog, and robot rock made them one of the most distinctive bands in indie rock.
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Styles: Alternative/Indie Rock, Experimental Rock, Indie Rock, Post-Rock, Electro
Album release: May 20, 2014
Record Label: Thrill Jockey
Duration:     38:16
Tracks:
01 Anthropocene     5:44  
02 Reevaluations     4:23  
03 Night Shift     4:02  
04 K Street     1:28  
05 Backlash     2:40  
06 Ice Fortress     3:56  
07 Failure     2:15  
08 I'll Never     4:35  
09 Megastorm     4:22  
10 Insufficiently Breathless     4:49
Members:
•ð•   Nathan Means (bass, vocals)
•ð•   Philip Manley (guitar)
•ð•   Sebastian Thomson (drums)
Credits:
ð•   Anton Ivanov Photography
•ð•   Nikhil Ranade Producer
•ð•   Sheila Sachs Design
ð   Trans Am Composer, Producer
Review by Heather Phares;  Score: ***½
•ð•   Over the years, Trans Am have been torch–bearers for many of the sounds that became fashionable again in 2010’s indie rock and electronic music, including Krautrock, prog rock, electro, and stoner rock. On their aptly named tenth full–length, Volume X, they prove once again that they have more than enough sides to fill twice as many albums with engaging variations of their sound; The Red Line and Sex Change had as much musical breadth as several discographies’ worth of music by less eclectic bands. While Volume X isn’t as ambitious as either of those efforts, it shows why Trans Am’s members work on projects as diverse as Baroness’ omnivorous metal and the minimal Krautrock of Life Coach when they’re not playing together. The band delineate these extremes with the album’s first two songs: the lumbering “Anthropocene” is a worthy addition to their growing body of riff–rock, while “Reevaluations” is tight and funky, with gated drums that would do Jan Hammer proud, and the vocoders that have become a Trans Am hallmark. This mischievous streak has made them hard to pin down, and arguably hard to fully appreciate, for listeners who would prefer them to concentrate on their music’s more challenging and cerebral sides. However, the trio winds its playful and serious elements together so tightly on Volume X that it’s hard to have one without the other. The album’s vocoder shenanigans run the gamut from the equally menacing and hilarious threats of “K Street” to “I’ll Never,” a rare display of Trans Am’s pretty pop that cloaks its heartache in mechanical vocals. For every ridiculous outburst like the metal tantrum that is “Backlash,” there’s a sublime track like “Night Shift,” a glorious synth fantasia that reaffirms Trans Am are among the few acts able to push Krautrock forward. This wide range helps keep the band’s music vivid: the way penetrating drones overtake “Megastorm”‘s chilly grind evokes walking down a dark corridor into blinding light, while the blend of pastoral acoustic guitars and ominous synth arpeggios on “Insufficiently Breathless” conjure black helicopters flying over a field of wildflowers. •ð•   Volume X isn’t quite as consistent as Trans Am’s finest work, but it’s still a lot of fun and will have fans anticipating what’s to come between this album and Volume XX. :: http://www.allmusic.com/
Artist Biography by Sean Cooper
•ð•   Trans Am are loosely associated with the mid–'90s post–rock scene centered around Tortoise, Ui, Labradford, Windy & Carl, etc., and the Thrill Jockey, Kranky, UHF, and Southern labels, among others. Although a vast distance separates Trans Am's albums, all of them are concerned with an extreme, somewhat humorous reorientation of the clichés and conventions of rock music, primarily through either technical (exaggerated displays of skill) or instrumental (electronics, effects) deviation.
•ð•   Formed in Washington, D.C., in 1990, the group didn't begin seriously recording until 1995, after its members (Phil Manley, Nathan Means, and Sebastian Thomson) finished college. Their self–titled debut, on the Chicago–based Thrill Jockey label, was recorded after just a few rehearsals back together, and contained instrumental, largely improvised versions of simple rock–oriented figures based loosely (and, again, quite humorously) on '70s and '80s popular and progressive bands such as Boston, Bachman Turner Overdrive, and Yes. Produced by Tortoise's John McEntire at Chicago's Idful Studios, the album was instantly (if somewhat ironically) lauded as an example of "post–rock" (an association that as much proves the meaningless of the "genre" as Trans Am's own relation to it), in turn leading to a short live tour as Tortoise's opening act.
•ð•   The group returned in the fall of 1996 with a self–titled EP of somewhat retro electro–funk experiments (released by Happy Go Lucky) that brought to the fore an affection for electronics previously reserved either for between–time studio distraction or the brief interludes separating the meatier segments of their debut. With 1997's Surrender to the Night, however, Trans Am expanded that approach to album length, with inadvertent tributes to Kraftwerk, Hashim, Can, and New Order dominating and only a few recognizably "rock" songs included. Also signaling a change in focus was the expanded role electronics would play in their live performances; where earlier incarnations of the group included noodly Casio interludes that never grew beyond a sideshow, Surrender's more electronics–heavy material meant more of the stage space was given over to analog machines, trigger devices, and MIDI–wired beatboxes.
•ð•   Trans Am's inclusion on the Mille Plateaux label's double–CD compilation In Memoriam Gilles Deleuze (alongside Cristian Vogel, Beequeen, Mike Ink, and Atom Heart, as well as labelmates Rome and Oval) also helped introduce the band to audiences in Europe, where the group has found similar popularity as such electronic/acoustic hybrids as Flying Saucer Attack and Stereolab. A fourth album, Futureworld, followed in 1999, and a year later the group returned with its most expansive album yet, The Red Line, recorded in the band's own National Recording Studio. In 2002, Trans Am released T.A. — another foray into late–'80s/early–'90s electro–rock. The ironic, political Liberation followed in early 2004; after the album's release, the members of Trans Am scattered across the globe on a planned hiatus for two years. Means ended up in Auckland, New Zealand, and the bandmembers convened there to begin sessions for their next album at MAINZ, a local recording school. After completing the album at Brooklyn's Okropolis studio, the results, Sex Change, were released in early 2007. A live album, What Day Is It Tonight?, appeared in 2009. The enigmatically named album Thing was issued in spring 2010. During the next four years, the group worked on their tenth album in between the members' other committments, which included Manley's work with Life Coach and Thomson's work with Baroness. The fittingly named Volume X arrived in 2014.
Discography:
•ð•   1996 Trans Am   Thrill Jockey
•ð•   1997 Surrender to the Night   Thrill Jockey
•ð•   1998 The Surveillance   Thrill Jockey
•ð•   1999 Futureworld   Thrill Jockey
•ð•   2000 The Red Line   Thrill Jockey
•ð•   2002 T.A.   Thrill Jockey
•ð•   2004 Liberation   Thrill Jockey
•ð•   2007 Sex Change   Thrill Jockey
•ð•   2010 Thing  album  Thrill Jockey
•ð•   2014 Volume X   Thrill Jockey
Website: http://www.transband.com/
Label: http://www.thrilljockey.com/
•ð•   There are three ways of interpreting Volume X, the title of the new album by Trans Am. The first is obvious — it is the band’s tenth studio release, comprised of ten songs that display ten unique sides of Phil Manley, Nathan Means, and Sebastian Thomson. •ð•   You can also imagine a volume knob being cranked all the way up, the amplification level for an ideal Trans Am listening session. But it can also be read as a representation of the band’s remarkable ability to express, and even embody, unknown capacities, adopting bold stylistic and aesthetic shifts as a defining tenet of their quarter–century long career. 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. Volume X continues in this gloriously contrarian tradition, presenting fans with strange and familiar sounds in new contexts, from kosmische rock to futuristic speed metal to robo–balladry to variants on classic rock that are so warped as to be rendered completely unrecognizable.
•ð•   “Anthropocene” opens the album with 30 seconds of serene synthesizer ambience before obliterating the stillness with a massive, fuzzy riff anchored by Thomson’s relentless, pounding groove, recorded live in the studio for maximum impact. Volume X is full of these types of disarming moments. Halfway through the sweeping, Kraftwerkian “Night Shift” the song’s syncopated shuffle suddenly becomes a throbbing motorik pulse as two drum takes are overlaid. “Backlash” creeps in with a massive synthesized low–end drone before breaking into a Kill ‘Em All inspired thrash riff that is one of the most aggressive passages the band has laid to tape. And the band saves their most poignant melody for the stripped down slow jam “I’ll Never,” with a vocoded Nathan Means intoning, “Its true, I’ll never get over you.”
•ð•   Volume X was recorded in spurts over three years, mostly at LCR Studios in San Francisco, where Phil Manley has recorded many other bands as a professional engineer. He also plays in Life Coach with Jon Theodore of Queens of the Stone Age, and Thomson spends his time away from Trans Am playing drums for Baroness. The band is continues to live in separate cities, although all three have settled within the continental US for now. Trans Am will be playing shows throughout North America in support of Volume X.
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Trans Am — Volume X

 

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