Propulsive Japanese power trio Transkam have clawed their way out of conservative, noise law-abundant Tokyo and onto an international touring circuit that will see them return to the City Beautiful for the first time since last year's 11Eleven Fest, this time for a decidedly more intimate engagement with maximal emo purveyors Casket Lottery.
The post-rock trio deals in dense webs of melody that build into intricate and explosive force, yet Transkam describes their sound as minimal: "We don't want the same approach as other artists because we think originality is important, but there are many friends who empathize: In the Sun, Nisennenmondai, Fukuro, Kuruucrew ... they are trying a minimal approach too."
Transkam's instrumental makeup is that of a traditional three-piece – guitarist Tune from Alan Smithee's Mad Universe, bassist Yukiyo of Tacobonds, and drummer Yana of Numbs – but one in which the three instruments interlock in total telepathic synchronicity.
Transkam's latest release, EP2, from November 2018, gives off hints of industrial, motorik and shoegaze, yet it also seemingly carries the familiar melody of "Zach's Song" in School of Rock (almost three minutes into the album's second track). While discordant and repetitive, Transkam's melodies rarely get too aggressive, leaning instead toward exciting, disorienting swirls of sound.
Transkam's 2016 EP, Blueshade of the Omegasound, is heavier, taking a more wall-of-sound approach to emphasizing riff and rhythm. Proggy riffs and often mantric basslines are piled incessantly atop throbbing drums, for pure zone-out bliss.
Even so, as "Japanese people and law are not generous with noise," law and custom in Japan have a massive influence on the ability of DIY artists to host house shows in Tokyo. For this reason, members of Transkam say DIY is "hard, but very good." So instead, they take the leap of faith that is a DIY-centric touring circuit in the United States, a circuit that is leading them straight to Gainesville's annual punk explosion, the Fest, which Transkam will play the night before this Orlando gig. An excellent musical debriefing, if there ever were one.
Asked why the DIY scene in Tokyo is so impenetrable, Transkam responds that there are many variables at play, like the current economic recession. They liken the situation in Tokyo to today's New York City: "It's easy to play in the Tokyo underground scene if it's OK with [a very] small guarantee. Maybe it's the same reason we can't [play] in New York."
There are more opportunities for underground artists in Tokyo now than were available a few years ago, but Japanese musicians are fascinated by the idea of playing house shows overseas (a generalization proposed by Transkam). While Will's Pub is no house or basement, it has the requisite grit, so next week, help make the dream of these sound alchemists a reality.
– This story appeared in the Oct. 30, 2019, print issue of Orlando Weekly. Stay on top of Central Florida news and views with our weekly Headlines newsletter.