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Trans Am / Gum Takes Tooth (live at Green Door Store)

Brighton 11 November 2014

In one swift motion I will disperse any notions of latent ’90s cool – I’d never knowingly listened to Trans Am before. I didn’t even know if it’s Tram Am or Trans AM, an automobile or a radio station. Entering the venue I was immediately struck by the very particular nature of the audience – not a one under 30, few over 40 — the vast majority of them looking slightly out of place, emblematic of an audience who only frequents gigs of bands they liked as teenagers.

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Trans Am / AK DK (live at Baba Yaga’s Hut)

Trans Am Baba Yaga's Hut November 2014Elektrowerkz, London 8 November 2014

One can learn a lot about two bands from their inter-set changeover. Here in the black box of Elektrowerkz, surrounded by dressed-down men with beards and a few women too, we are watching AK DK remove a lot of equipment.

There are two drum kits in there, a couple of synths with reassuringly wooden sides on tables covered in lots of other associated junk; and then behind them there’s that big modular system with a fetishistic dial-like module that has been cycling all through the set. We’re not even sure that it did anything but it looked kind of cool, so you definitely would leave it running if you’d bothered to drag that piece of furniture along to a gig.

For

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Trans Am – Volume X

Thrill Jockey

Trans Am – Volume XWhen we look back to the ’90s, back when something that was called post-rock was as vital a part of the musical landscape as Britpop or grunge, we might find ourselves wincing at the apparent uselessness of this subgeneric category, or we might find ourself wincing at the uselessness of all subgeneric categories, or we might find ourselves just not caring either way.

Post-rock was described somewhere apocryphal as what happened if you ditched your vocalist and hired John McEntire to produce your album. And as far as it goes, some of this was true of Trans Am; the McEntire production credit was there, also the lack of songwriterliness and the lack of a singer too; at least initially. Back then, if we were

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Trans Am, Federation X, Life Coach (live at Stumpfest )

Mississippi Studios Portland, OR 25 April 2014

The ramifications of the loop, the power of the riff, the subdivision of the motorik beat. College, krautrock, and working for yr music festival.

This jam-packed free-for-all in the barnlike interior of Mississippi Studios on a Thursday night illustrated exactly how far kosmische musik has come since Trans Am first released its seminal Futureworld on Thrill Jockey in 1999. When I first heard Trans Am in college (I hate even writing things like that. I didn’t finish, though, don’t worry), it seemed like approximately 12 people — most likely all musicians and music journalists — were jamming the likes of Can, Neu! and Kraftwerk. It was the ultimate badge of obscurity, to show you were hip and European and futurist.

*

Fast forward 13 years, 13 years of Can re-issues and Neu! re-packaging, to a Thursday night in Portland, OR packed

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Trans Am – Thing

Thrill Jockey

Trans Am - Thing sleeveWow, this is a really different kind of Trans Am album. But wow in general, too, it’s also a pretty fucking great album. The first thing that struck me about Thing was its soundtrack-like quality. At points it is more like a vision of Blade Runner rather than the electro rock we know and love from Trans Am.

Thing began life as project for a sci-fi horror adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. The project never happened, but Trans Am continued with their album exploring lots of directions. To ensure the sufficient feeling of exhaustion and paranoia Trans Am stayed in their studio until the early hours of the morning. Now that’s the kind of commitment I like to see in a band. It reminds me of Steve Vai fasting for seven days

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Trans Am – What Day Is It Tonight?

Thrill Jockey

Trans Am‘s blend of rock/electro comes to the stage with live album What Day Is It Tonight? Many lesser bands wouldn’t be able to pull this kind of fusion off. Synthpop and hard driving rock are seemingly chalk and cheese. Lesser bands might have troubles, but this is what Trans Am do and they do it like fucking champs (and indeed sometimes alongside The Fucking Champs).

The world Trans Am conjures up has the same kind of split personality as their music. Their vision lurches from tongue in cheek Kraftwerk future world of kitsch to a dark scifi dystopia; sometimes within the same song. For all the cuteness of “Futureworld” ‘s vocoder

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Trans Am – You Can Always Get What You Want

Label: Thrill Jockey Format: CD

You Can Always Get What You Want - sleeve It all starts very well with “American Kooter”‘, funky in more ways than one and it reminds me of early Cabaret Voltaire; yes! “Now you die, Thriddle Fool” delightfully homicidal Electro or “Strong Sensations” – a riffing orgy the other side of Ritchie Blackmore‘s hair curlers.

But besides that it all gets a bit lazy. But so it should be, because this is a collection of out-takes and obscure live stuff. It’s for the fans, so to speak. Most of this material was released in Japan to flog the fanatical market there. The men of Trans Am seem to like to get drunk on Asahi rather than be big in Japan, as the pictures in the sleeve notes so graphicly depict. So, the guys decided to collect all this

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Trans Am – Who Do We Think You Are?

Label: Spunk! Format: CDS

Who Do We Think You Are?- sleeve

Trans Am must be the most versatile trio ever to call themselves a band. Who Do We Think You Are? is a terrific little six song showing of this as our boys slip slide right through thirty years worth of musical genres in less than an hour. A fast glance to the almighty (if slightly irritating) vocoder and little dips here and there in the humourous pool of Devo-style electronics and it’s on and on through a world of influences which must be as wide apart as Scorpions and Foetus. Maybe even a little Gothic kind of New Romantic cross-breed hybrid of Bolan style glam and the all-Amerikan Mr. Hendrix.

Whenever I listen to Trans Am I simply do not know what to think other than that I love them. With literally

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