Trans Am Red Line

Electro rock and roll reconstructionists Trans Am continue their manic recording schedule with their fifth album of new material in the past five years, not to mention EPs and compilation tracks. Known for their ability to fuse seemingly incongruous genres and sounds, the band turn the trick on themselves by merging the varying styles encountered on previous albums. Seeing as that's a lot of ground to cover, Red Line clocks in at over 70 minutes. Once again, we're treated to the vocoder vocals and German reference points presented on last year's Futureworld, with harsh motoric rhythms and that desolate rage first encountered on Surrender To The Night ('97). The dark ambience of The Surveillance ('96) and the super-powered guit-rock of their debut ('96) flesh out the extremes of this hectic journey. Constructed as a flowing entity, Red Line builds in tension as it progresses. The desolate, sterile atmosphere breaks with the scorching rock of "Play In The Summer," featuring the rare use of non-modified vocals. After the pummelling drum circle of "Diabolical Cracker" and the cold melodic vocal on "I'm Coming Down" (later revisited on the higher octane "Slow Response"), we're treated to the ambitious "The Dark Gift," which moves from a sweet acoustic guitar melody into an intensely rhythmic prog workout, meshing classical guitar with pounding rock and pretty synth. Then the heat seems to break with atmospheres more cautious and calming. But lest we forget what lurks beneath, the angular guitar squelch of "Bad Cat" shocks us back to reality and the album closes on a note of sheer panic, with a double shot of paranoid jazz-induced freak-outs on "Ragged Agenda" and "Shady Groove." A truly exhausting experience from start to finish. (Thrill Jockey)