Trans Am, Zombi and Psychic Paramount: Traveling Through Time and Space

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“Retro” would be an appropriate word for describing Maryland three-piece Trans Am. “Post-modern” would be a more academic abstraction of their methodology. With countless young bands cherry-picking vintage sounds from ‘60s garage to classic rock to new wave, such adjectives might evoke a sour taste in the mouth and a skeptical role of the eyes. Trans Am, however, has seventeen years and eight full-length albums to separate themselves from any passing revival fad. While many new bands attempt to pass off lackluster music

as something original and serious, Trans Am possesses a more friendly and honest relationship with their influences.

This positive connection exudes itself in the band’s carefree stage presence. At their Satellite Ballroom show on April 11th, drummer Sebastian Thomson donned a large metal chain around his neck as he pounded away, while keyboardist/guitarists Nathan Means and Philip Manley smiled and chugged out melodies. The band started off with “Conspiracy of the Gods,” a tune from their most recent album Sex Change, before Thomson threw down a massive drum solo that transitioned into vocoder-heavy “Futureworld” from the album of the same title.

With sometimes cheesy or clichéd riffs, Trans Am flirts with irony. Ultimately, though, veteran prowess proves that they are not joking around. Whether they are venturing into the territory of classic New Order or ‘70s prog, they move through time with a sense of appreciation rather than mockery.

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rtistID=10132">Zombi, who took the stage before Trans Am, radiated a similar vibe, but with the throwback focused more at progressive wanderings. The Pittsburg-based group consists only of A.E. Paterra on drums and Steve Moore on bass and synths, but with the help of loops and Paterra’s amazing drumming, they put forth a very compelling sound. The results are spaced-out jams that bounce between Kraftwerk arpeggios, precise math rock rhythms and Philip Glass soundscapes.

The heart of Zombi’s music comes from the aural telepathy that is only possible with a two-piece. Paterra and Moore are matching gears in one well-oiled, kinetically charged music machine. With some underwhelming mainstream bands calling themselves progressive, it’s great to see a band like Zombi carrying on the meticulous, hardworking ethos that the original innovators of prog rock forged.

New York’s Psychic Paramount, who opened the show, stood out from the retro feel of the other two bands, but in an entirely good way. While they explore territory that is distant from the precise orchestration of Trans Am and Zombi, they still share the prog spirit. Instead of the programmed intricacy of the other two bands, Psychic Paramount embraces chaos and noise and sculpts the resulting decibels into jagged but beautiful terrain.

The three-band line-up of Trans Am, Zombi and Psychic Paramount was like a long thunderstorm in early summer. Though you sense having been through it before, the experience is fresh and comforting. You don’t mind sitting back and listening to the familiar sounds. You remain in place, but you are keenly aware of the atmosphere around you and of times past.

See Photographs from the Show and Other Shows from Contributor John Ruscher of Nailgun Media.

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