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Trans Am

Was a time when I didn't care for Trans Am, because I couldn't tell whether the trio's mostly instrumental rock music was meant to be a parody of or an homage to its varied influences: early electronic rock acts such as Kraftwerk, horror movie soundtracks, clanging thrash-rock and burbling disco.

I got over that when I realized I could enjoy the music no matter how it was intended to be heard. The band's latest CD was conceived, written, recorded and mixed in only three weeks, in three cities on two continents. Sex Change also is probably Trans Am's most stylistically cohesive album.

It begins with the gentle minimalism of "First Words" and the hypnotic, dramatic build of "North East Rising Sun," the latter song boasting breathy vocals and owing more than a small debt to the instrumentals of Pink Floyd.

Although past Trans Am works inspired comparisons to so-called krautrock, this boasts the welcome influence of 1970s prog rock. Especially fun to hear is the guitar-heavy "Conspiracy of the Gods" and "Triangular Pyramid," which adds quasi-operatic vocals and angular shards of melody. Floating psychedelic jazz and mechanical romanticism also can be heard jostling for position on these tracks.

Then there's the old-school electro funk of "Obscene Strategies," which tips its hat to the early '80s mutant-disco of acts such as Material and Defunkt. Simply glorious.

More by Gene Armstrong

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