Transkam (Tokyo)

Published on October 31st, 2018


The Transcaucasian Highway is a hundred-mile mountain pass connecting Russia with two republics to the south. No worries if you’ve never heard of it. I only mention this Soviet-era ribbon of concrete because a band from yet another part of the world — Japan — decided they liked the highway’s nickname for themselves.

So give a bow to Transkam, a five-year-old instrumental duo-turned-trio from Tokyo with a minimalist but deliberate style of composition that ties together numerous genres. “Minimal music, alternative rock, junk rock, post-rock, indie rock, hard core punk, krautrock, industrial,” guitarist Ryo “Tune” Hisatsune tells PureHoney, reeling off Transkam’s myriad influences. “Etcetera really, so many!”

Even with a new EP in the offing, the band’s available body of work so far is also, well, minimal — the one previous release being 2016’s “Blueshade of the Omegasound,” six tracks totaling less than 30 minutes but decisively covering all the sonic and weighty emotional territory Transkam occupies. That it never feels like “just” an instrumental record is a credit to the band’s deep vision and musicianship.

Transkam is an offshoot of Japan’s own sprawling underground. Tune hails from the experimental synth-punk collective Alan Smithee’s MAD Universe, bassist Yukiyo from the psych-rock combo Tacobonds, drummer Yana from Numbs. “There are really many music genre scenes in Tokyo,” says Tune. “Everyone is connecting.” To my everlasting joy he also gives a thumbs-up to a particular Japan obsession of mine, the witty ’90s retro punk band Teengenerate,

You’ll find some argument among observers over just how minimalist Transkam really is. Their self-descriptions on social media — “minimal junk” or “minimal rock,” with “emphasis on riff and rhythm” — add to the ambiguity. Whatever the degree, it will be great to have Transkam playing here and showing reciprocal love for a scene far from theirs. “I know there are emo legends and many unique bands from Florida,” says Tune. “I watched The Mercury Program on the 2003 Japan tour. It was so great!” Transkam are proof of the rewards for listening without borders.

Transkam opens for The Mercury Program, with Remember the Ocean and One Dog’s Opinion, 8pm November 9 at Voltaire in West Palm Beach. ~ Abel Folgar

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