Post Rocking Techno

    Trans Am; 'Surrender To The Night' (City Slang)

I can't say that I was too impressed with the eponymous debut LP by Trans Am. In the grip of a post-rock fervour I picked it up hoping for something as obtuse as a Tortoise or a Rome, but instead found something that was altogether not far removed enough from the rock orthodox to be of much interest at all. Someone said I missed the irony, but if the jokes were there, hell they just weren't funny. I admit to liking some of the odd techno interludes, but that was hardly the point; they just stuck out like great, tiny sketches in a gallery of overworked, oversized monstrosities. So it was with extreme caution that I approached their second release, 'Surrender to the Night'. I admit freely that I wasn't going to buy it, and I would probably only have heard it eventually via a taped copy if City Slang hadn't been generous enough to mail a review copy. So it was with great surprise that I found myself to be eagerly telling all and sundry that Trans Am had actually, no I mean really, actually, made a great record.

If the debut LP was full of trenchant rock sounds, then this substitutes a plethora of 303 type squelches into the equation to emerge with a quirky and playful sound that has far more in common with the electro pioneers of the 80s than you might have expected. There's something going on that makes me think that this is what Ui sounded like they should have sounded more like given Sasha Frere-Jones' comments on the appeal of the early 80s New York Hip Hop radio stations. Not to say that Ui sounded BAD after that, just not quite as playful as I'd expected. And Trans Am certainly do sound playful on this record. The sense of humour that I might have missed on the debut is here shown much more clearly, and the titles are great pastiches on 1970s funk and rock: 'Love Commander', 'Night Dancing', 'Tough Love' and the Styxian or Rainbow-sounding title track. And thankfully on this release the sounds that accompany those titles sound quite a bit removed from the aforementioned bands, because whilst Trans Am may well 'post-rock like bastards', they squelch like post-techno elctroheadz into the bargain. Nice…


    To Rococo Rot; Veiculo' (City Slang) / Kreidler; 'Weekend' (Kiff)

If Trans Am still steer the track of the post-rock pioneers, then their label mates To Rococo Rot and the linked Kreidler (on Kiff) are much more on the post-techno avenue. The recently released 'Veiculo' and 'Weekend' LPs respectively are great examples of the directions that the European pioneers are putting to this post-everything soundscape of the future present. There's much less reliance on rock traditions here, and the sounds come very much more from the European avant-garde. That's if you wanna talk historically. It's also much less influenced by the free jazz that informs the likes of, say, Tortoise, and that in itself is refreshing because let's face it, Tortoise have done that angle so well already. What it is though, is unashamedly electronic music for listening to, electronic music for envisioning architectural and mathematical dreams to. This is music of movement, but more an internal movement, a techno of watch workings and processors, less emotional and outwordly mobile than, say, a Detroit techno sound. Which is no bad thing. Post-techno for the inwardly mobile, no less.

Alistair Fitchett. February 1997.