Traams, The Bullingdon, Thursday 3rd November 2016
In philosophy the question of body and soul dualism is an ongoing and much contested topic. Plato postured some millennia ago that the soul breathed consciousness, intelligence and persona into the body, which was considered a mere vessel, a facilitator for the soul if you will. They existed in a symbiotic relationship, allowing one another the opportunity of life and worldly experience. Traams exist in a very similar way, their bones and flesh keeping a locomotive, throbbing heartbeat while the soul flutters and swoops, bathed in distorted reverb, in a nuanced world of possibilities. They arrive in Oxford off the back of their latest offering Modern Dancing and at the midway point in their tour, there is no sign of complacency or fatigue in a wholly exceptional hour of mesmerising music which sets its camp somewhere between post punk and noise rock.
Joe Strummer once famously stated that a band is “only as good as its drummer” and Traams exhibit this doctrine exceptionally, their defined and authoritarian rhythm section pulsates and pounds its way through the entire performance, allowing lead guitarist and vocalist Stuart Hopkins to create twisted and morbidly decadent shrills of fragmented high end and desperately evocative vocal lines.
The rhythm section and Hopkins guitar work seem to cohabit space for short periods of time before becoming restless and looking for new and uncharted recourses to explore. It’s impossible not to get fully immersed in the performance, the band seemingly irreconcilably connected to their music and as the set moves through a torrent of emphatic work with seemingly little or no structural integrity, the chaotic crescendos engulf and provoke while the breakdowns maintain a rigid and unflagging energy.
In a world of beautiful studio production that can transform the most dull and lifeless compositions into epic symphonies, it is easy to ignore the impact of the live sound in order to create something palatable and packageable. Traams exist almost solely as a live band, the studio recordings unable to express the intensity and vigour of performance. Unfortunately this double edged sword means in all likelihood their music will never be radio friendly enough to achieve mass appeal but will strike an atonal chord with anyone who experiences them.