Traams first appeared on my radar last November when I saw them opening at the Green Door Store and they blew me away. The fact that I cannot remember who they were supporting is indicative of the mark left on me. Fast forward 10 months and they have just released their debut LP, Grin. Every review I have seen mentions Motorik or Krautrock, so I will try to avoid going down that route. Partly because I’m not totally sure what either mean anymore. Certainly, it is an album that is a great accompaniment to doing something, anything. If Traams were a red wine the label would undoubtedly say “good with everything“.
Grin rattles and rolls along in a restless manner and there is an irresistible urgency to it that makes it feel essential. The drums and bass are intertwined as one which allows freedom for the guitar to swirl across the songs, with frontman Stu’s vocals adding an almost muffled desperate-for-air vitality. It’s the sound of a man locked in a toilet, distant and desperate. And it works, it works because although it might seem discordant it adds resonance to a sound that is anything but. You feel as though it has been studiously and perfectly created. This contradiction appears throughout the record and their live shows, but it’s not a contradiction that jars. In this way while they are yelping, thrashing and grooving what you are actually listening to might be a cute pop song. Melody is at the heart of everything.
Grin is an album that thunders by at a seemingly relentless break-neck speed, however this is misleading. Within it Traams master a number of styles, speed and feeling. Opening with Swimming Pool, an atmospheric nod to TV on The Radio with haunting oooh’s and even a bit of mouth organ thrown in for good measure, they lurch from the blistering Flowers to a bona-fide driving song in Head Roll. Fibbist is a simple pop song about heartbreak while the title track Grin slowly builds and from the outside of your body you see yourself moving in a trance, unsure why or even how long you have been there, and aware of nothing but your nodding head.
I read an interview with the band recently where they said they have already written their second album, and with EP Ladders coming out in July they are certainly prolific. If I have one criticism it would be that the album goes slightly flat around the middle, and there are perhaps a couple of songs from Ladders that could have replaced a couple here and made Grin my nailed-on album of the year. As it is, it is still up there.
Resident Records In-Store Performance, Monday 23rd September 2013
So a week after the LP release, they pitched up at Resident Records in their adopted home town to play an in-store show. I love record store gigs; apart from the obvious thrill of seeing music played in a different, intimate space and atmosphere, you have a slightly different crowd than usual. Young kids who can’t go to 18+ shows, older dudes who might feel out of place seeing them in a scummy student bar at 11pm on a Tuesday, and although it wasn’t as intense as their normal live show, it felt more like a gig than record store performances normally do. Firstly, it was LOUD. It was so loud that I saw CDs topple from the shelves. Secondly, there is something very immediate about Traams. You can’t help but be carried along with them. Stu thrashes the guitar in such a way two strings on two separate guitars are broken. As he was trying to fit a new string he jokingly asked “has anyone got a guitar?”. This is Brighton darling, who hasn’t? So he borrowed someone’s Les Paul, “I’ve never played a proper guitar before” and promptly destroyed it, first finishing off the anthemic Flowers (I can hear kids flailing wildly across the dancefloor to this at indie nights and crowds shouting in unison “I don’t even know your number, and you don’t even know my name” during headline sets) before playing a fantastically sweaty, grove ridden and raucous version of the epic album closer Klaus. It’s almost bluesy motori… ah, fuck it.