Trans FX’s new album gives me the same feeling I get when I see silver and pink in the sky, or a cup of purple glitter ready for something, or that excited but timid feeling you get by yourself at your favorite band’s show mid-set.
It is a cosmic collision, co-released by two Olympia, Washington, labels, Perennial and K Records. The best tracks on the album are those that stay closest to the harmony of light static noise from a TV, a synth that sounds like it was dipped in honey, and galactic sonic power. The title track is an epic incision into the silent air, and sounds like the sleepy daughter of Dan Deacon and Brian Eno. Ben Leonard’s cello on the track sounds like the gentle footsteps of a violet ghost. The lyrics to the song are the perfect spider web of words: “One day a sun will rise and take the grey out of the sky, just make sure you let him in.” Even though I am listening to some sweet Olympia, Washington, white dudes, the “him” in “let him in” might be an immortal lover, an idea, a poem in a dusty book, or a cool breeze on your face at the beach. The album’s warm, grainy quality makes any of those things possible.
It is the soundtrack for fall mornings or evenings, and it makes me want to be like Jodie Foster in Contact, listening to signals from space all day in a NASA hut on the beach somewhere. “If I Am Losing You” is the soundtrack for walking on a tightrope between heartbreak and freedom from someone you love but are also tied to. The key to this song: perfect digital delay on a synth sound. It is truly calling to the ghosts of Lou Reed’s “Street Hassle” and Dionne Warwick’s “Walk on By,” except Trans FX is fixated on them being on Mars. It is incredible how everything braids together sound-wise. The vocals are always nestled in those impeccably delayed synth sounds and soft guitar strings; it’s like the best post-punk sound with a velvety cosmic Instagram filter over it. Shoegaze isn’t a good enough description for it.
The only song I did not really like is “When You See the Light” — it just felt like an unwanted departure, with lyrics that are much more literal and with much more of an electronic dance sound, without the soft, slumbery quality of tracks like “Into the Blu.” And it could be the Catholic upbringing in me that did not like the repeated sample of someone saying “sexual attraction.” I want to hear this song live, and see if it has a different effect.
One of the great things about this is how many people are on the recordings. The back of the insert is a long list of names of people who have had some hand in this record, and the collective energy is really noticeable. It makes it seem like it would be hard to reproduce over and over live. As a punk musician this is interesting to me because we often try to match our live energy in our recordings.
This album might not be trying to impart a clear message. But clarity is not what I am looking for in a cloud of galactic dust — I’m looking for some type of gravity. And Trans FX has a very special gravity. This record is filled with seeds for ideas. At first it made me want to learn a Korg board really bad and make space-themed art. But after the fourth listen, it made me want to think about every time the heart got heavy and I wanted to close my eyes and envision other realities in the multiverse.