Goods Yard, Brighton Station
Thank <insert deity of choice here> there are bands like Trans Am out there. 25 years and ten albums of doing what the fuck they want, when the fuck they want, with scant regard for their own income; playing shows to rooms so much smaller than their talent or back catalog deserves. They’re a serious music fan’s fantasy, unknown and yet take any music loving mate to see them and they will come out of the show with a new favourite band.
They’re like Kraftwerk if they lost the austere image, kicked back, dropped some psychedelics and let it all hang out. Across their career virtually anything goes: danceable, minimal, vocoder voiced and mainly instrumental music that encompasses krautrock – though Trans Am veer closer to Cosmic Jokers or Ash Ra than Neu! – synth-pop, IDM, punk, classic rock, folk and metal. It sounds like a car crash doesn’t it? Somehow, it isn’t.
You’d expect a band this full of ideas to keel over eventually, but most recent album X released earlier this year is to these ears one of their best. Pitchfork hated it and we suspect Trans Am are rather proud of that.
As with all Tatty Seaside Town shows the support is both relevant to the headliner and of the upmost quality. Gum Takes Tooth have about the same respect for genre convention as the main act, which is virtually none. Have you ever had a coffee in a rehearsal studio entrance where Earth, HEALTH and Lightning Bolt had been playing in separate rooms, whilst a stereo pumped out Sandwell District? No, nor have we. We think Gum Takes Tooth might have though.
Opening the night are AK/DK and you’ve all seen them haven’t you? If you haven’t then make sure you do, because their two man, two drumkit, synth and sampler trickery has for a long time been one of the best live acts in the city. Their Synths+ Drums+ Noise+ Space released earlier this year lived up to the not inconsiderable expectations around them.
We’re going to be hugely disappointed if we don’t see you out for this one. You have been warned.
It really is a wonder, the access to music that we all have in this modern, post-internet, Spotify world. It’s not unreasonable to expect a new generation of genre mutating bands mixing Trout Mask Replica with E2-E4 or Marcus Garvey with Master of Puppets. Music informed by the past for the future. Trans Am were this kind of band, genuinely before their time, post-rock before that term came to mean what it does; a band full of the history of rock music in all its guises, seeking different ways to use it.
The changing moods of most recent album Volume X provided the bedrock of this set and demonstrated the magnificent job that record has done of surmising the moods of their career to date. Their polar opposites are demonstrated by two highlights. ‘I’ll Never’ is as close as they get to a ballad, a vocoder-voiced paean to robot love that manages to be both playful and affecting with a simple melody and schmaltzy lyrics. ‘Backlash’ brings to mind Bay Area thrash metal with its thunderous drumming and its frantic scales-speeded-up solo.
Watching drummer Seb Thomson is the highlight of the show, a combination of power, poise and control. He even manages to perform complex running repairs on his high-hat mid song without missing a beat. It’s his fills that stand out when they visit the slower, doom rock territory of ‘Anthropocene’ as well as the more mid-paced, synth led, vocoder rock of ‘Megastorm’ or ‘I Want It All’. A constantly engaged audience suggested it would be worth their while not leaving it 12 years before their next visit.
In support Gum Takes Tooth is what happens when you give two metallers 2C-Bs, expose them to the best of the history of recorded electronic music and give them the keys to the synth/sampler workshop. A two-piece with a drummer who gets more intricate and forceful throughout the show, and an electronics/vocals/dancing man. Their first track was misleading; a monopaced, techno(ish) workout that doesn’t really go anywhere. It did however, serve to highlight the ferocity and purpose of that which followed it. Rumbling thunder drums – those things were miked up loud – synth washes at punishing volumes that at times veer into noise territory, and shamanic obfuscated vocals. There were moments that recalled HEALTH, but truthfully these guys are doing something of their own.
Is it even possible to not have a good time watching AK/DK? Unfortunately our arrival was a little late and the party was in full swing and it was clear that Brighton turned out early for one of the best local bands. Their two-man, loads of synths, two drum kits and other toys remains a joy to watch and their relentless enthusiasm alone would probably be sufficient. But the songs are great. If perhaps they could descend into jam band territory in their early days, they’ve refined their tracks to a point where they are sharp, punchy and relentless. Their last track uses a hitherto unseen analogue box of tricks, gets an electronic beat going, which created a mood akin to a voodoo game of space invaders before a booming bass driven wig out ends proceedings.