H&H // LIVE: TRANS, TWELVE HOUR FOUNDATION – EXCHANGE BRISTOL – 07/03/14

Originally posted on Hooting & Howling

Suede guitarist Bernard Butler and Jackie McKeown of Trans

On the second night of their tour, backed up by the release of their stellar ‘Green’ EP, Trans hit Bristol Exchange last week to a crowd of those very much ‘in the know’ and fueled a Friday night of sheer musical excellence.

First up though, were Bristol’s own Twelve Hour Foundation – a project from the mastermind of producer Jez Butler combining synths and heavy concepts alongside co-member Polly Hulse, and some psychedelic backdrops for good measure. The music however was in quite a world of its own, with foundations provided by the analogue beats of Hulse whilst Butler littered them with chiming melodies and swirling MIDI pulses, it was enjoyable background music but, despite the lengthy explained concepts – one was dedicated to their pet stick insect Felix, an utterly unique style from all angles, while another was designed around what a comic book cover would sound like – it became all too conceptual and lacked musical substance. A nod though has to be given to the aptly titled ‘Human Soup’, that certainly gathered the best dancing reception of their set, a track comprised purely of sounds from the human body manipulated by synths and resulting in a surprisingly musical combination. Nonetheless, the rest didn’t fare quite so well and the overall result was futuristic lift music.

Trans came soon after. Prior to doors someone had approached me for a description of the band, after little consideration & complete uncertainty now I thought about it, “sort of experimental psychedelic krautrock” was settled on because that’s what all the reviews had been saying, not that I was entirely sure what it meant, and he soon walked off equally bewildered. In reality, Trans are none of the above, both onstage they simply come accross as four guys who can play incredibly, love doing so and aren’t afraid to show off about it either; this is an absolutely brilliant thing in all respects.

Onstage they go something like this: Jackie McKeown on the right; bouncing about somewhat like a 5 year old that’s just learnt their first guitar solo and having the time of their life playing it – though naturally with more talent than most 50 year olds could hope to muster, then there’s Igor Volk on bass – with his playing coming across as fantastically madman as his name, backed up by Paul Borchers who powers through the drumming with a poker face even Chris Lowe would be jealous of, and finally we have Bernard Butler – who doesn’t need a pat on the back from anybody when it comes to playing guitar, and effortlessly keeps the rest intact.

Aptly kicking off to the tones of ‘Dancing Shoes’ – an undoubted standout from the first EP – that does unsurprisingly exactly what it says on the tin, and in fine style, the room is swiftly encapsulated by intense guitar music and the tone for the rest of the evening is set.

The set darted through the offerings of the forthcoming and previous EPs, with the powerfully optimistic tones of ‘Lights’ and ‘Tangerine’ showcasing Butler & McKeown’s guitars seamlessly interweaving one another and the aforementioned krautrock-y essence being conjured up within, making for bright excerpts of the outfit’s best, and interjected by the harsher likes of ‘The Prince’, a stark 2 chord affair that twists into winding guitar improv and transcends back to the simplistic beginnings all seemingly effortlessly.

With an unneeded introduction of “we love playing this one” – because the fact becomes blindingly evident within all of their faces in the 8 or so minutes that follow, ‘Thinking About A Friend’ – already and rightly so acclaimed by more than a few musical heads – comes as an undeniable standout to the set, taking on the cheery pop tone of those before with an optimistic jangle Marr himself might be envious of at times and lyrics as simply blunt as “I think we should start again”, the whole thing comes across as a musical sigh, and an impressive one at that.

Penultimately, ‘Rock Steady’ – hailed as “the club classic” – took the room by storm and unsurprisingly stole the best reception of the night, illustrating just how well the outfit take a basic jarring riff and a collection of shouted dates and bus numbers and twist it into something quite unimaginably effortless and innovatively brilliant. Later that night the DJ mentioned – though not entirely correctly – that “the lyrics were awful”, and in retrospective of this track, following a pattern of numbers and the phrase “keep it rock steady” might not seem entirely groundbreaking to most, but in this case, you don’t need to be Nick Cave or Morrissey if you can write music quite this good, and Butler proves that none more so than in this track – because it will be stuck in your head for as long as you remember.

The last track of the night was another ‘Red’ EP contribution of genius in the form of ‘Jubilee’, comprised of an intricate riff of delay that quickly spiralled into more of the outfit’s carefully executed improvisations and all round showing off that highlights everything that’s right and completely spellbinding about Trans, a fact that everyone was well assured of by the time they swiftly ditched the guitars and ducked offstage.

Trans are a rare type that are making music intended for no one else but themselves and, both live and on the releases, the fact they do is evident, somehow making things only even more enjoyable for everyone else.

The group continue the tour with dates in Glasgow, Hebden Bridge, Leeds,  Liverpool and Manchester in the coming weeks and the ‘Green’ EP is out on 24th March via Rough Trade Records.

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