Published May 16, 2014This Maryland power trio, propelled by the drums of Sebastian Thomson (also of Baroness) and fronted by singer/bassist Nathan Means and guitarist-with-mystique Phil Manley, have been plugging away at their Krautrock-infatuated post-rock since 1990. Their obviously titled new album, Volume X, is their tenth studio album in that time, but considering that humble genius Manley spends a lot of time playing with the likes of Oneida, Jonas Reinhardt and his own Life Coach project, as well as recording dozens of respected albums at LCR Studios in San Francisco, their consistency over the years is remarkable.
For all of their big name tie-ins and overwhelming skill, Trans Am have always made geek music for music geeks, and there ain't nothing wrong with that. Everyone should have some Can, Cluster and Neu! in their record collections, but their relative rarity helps make them that much more special, and Trans Am are a part of that great if underappreciated tradition. Their continued Kraftwerk influence on Volume X can be heard in the pulsating synth bass and vocoder of "Reevaluation" and the elevating intro to "Night Shift," hitting more of a prog-metal feel on "Backlash" and "Megastorm" but toning it down for a touching synth love ballad in "I'll Never" that would be at home on an old OMD record. Acoustic guitar shuffle "Insufficiently Breathless" will make you thoughtfully contemplate its title.
Volume X is a balanced record, potentially a future classic for those who are into that sort of thing. (Thrill Jockey)