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Trans Am revs rock's engines



Trans Am, with Seely, Go Lounge, March 31, 1998

Trans Am has no trouble shifting gears between the prefixes attached to rock. Kraut, arena, progressive, space, electro and noise-rock influences can all be found in their highly charged instrumental music. With hints of the early robotics of Kraftwerk and the cock-rock posturing of Led Zeppelin as well as the synth-pop of The Cars, Trans Am swerves into all lanes. The band -- bassist/keyboardist Nathan Means, drummer Sebastian Thomson and guitarist/keyboardist Philip Manley -- has assembled an eclectic collection of parts into their musical vehicle, producing a roaring, sleek and cohesive machine.

"The Surveillance" -- their third full-length outing on Thrill Jockey Records -- finds Trans Am without longtime engineer John McEntire. Instead, they built their own studio, which they christened "The Bridge," and recorded and mixed the new album themselves. Means feels that the band's newfound control over the recording process resulted in a unique sound. "We wanted to get more of a live sound on some of the more rock songs," he explains. The result was a raw, expansive sound that frames the analog synths, drum machines, live drums, basses and noisy guitars in an authentically acoustic setting.

Sequestering themselves in their studio may also have led to Trans Am unconsciously producing a thematic album about the way Americans have flocked to gated communities to escape their fear of crime. Song titles like "Armed Response," "Access Control" and "Home Security," reflect society's paranoia. "I think the whole climate `in society` is very, very repressive," says Means. While most of the new songs were conceived before the band went in to record them, after hearing the playbacks Trans Am felt the music suggested themes of surveillance and paranoia, and titled the album accordingly.

Currently residing in the Washington, D.C., area with the rest of the band, Means lived in Orlando during fourth and fifth grade when his father wrote for The Orlando Sentinel. He came back to town with Trans Am several years ago and was impressed with the enthusiastic response that the band recieved.

With this city's expanding appreciation of all things musical and the band's deep inventory of all things rock, Trans Am's upcoming performance will be more than just another pit stop.

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