Track of the Day: 'Trance Manual'

More

John Vanderslice, who's appeared in this space before, is a singer-songwriter from Gainesville, Florida with a quavering tenor voice and a regard for audio gear that borders on the fetishistic. At Vanderslice's Web site, you can read an exhaustive account of how he put together his 2002 album Life and Death of an American Fourtracker. (Sample passage: "The blown out drum sound was created by sending a very hot signal off the board into the mic input of an Ibanez AD202 delay and tweaking the regeneration knob until pure chaos is reached.")

There's no equivalent concordance for Pixel Revolt, an excellent 2005 album that finds Vanderslice looking askance at war, medication, and celebrity worship. Still, you can hear the attention to detail on songs like "Trance Manual," where synth lines drift like aurora borealis over a mild-mannered ride-cymbal-and-rim-shot beat. This song is echt Vanderslice in at least one sense: it uses a lot of machines to create something improbably warm.

Vanderslice gets a lot of attention as a composer and a gearhead, but it's worth noting that he also seems to put as much care into his lyrics as anyone in the pop world. Here's an incomplete list of words and phrases that occur in "Trance Manual" and in no other song I've ever heard: "mujahidin," "sandbags," "sleepy 47s," "aqua mirabilis." From this collection of unlikely vocabulary, Past TracksVanderslice--along with his co-writer, John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats--assembles a tender portrait of a journalist meeting with a prostitute somewhere in the Middle East. Vast political forces brought them to this place, but the moment is made up of tiny details: "cheap lipstick, bleached hair." "Dressed like that, you are the flag of a dangerous nation," Vanderslice sings. "Dressed just like that, you are some kind of declaration."



On iTunes: John Vanderslice / "Trance Manual"

new track button.png
Jump to comments
Presented by

Alex Eichler is a reporter at The Huffington Post and a former staff writer at The Atlantic Wire.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What Is the Greatest Story Ever Told?

A panel of storytellers share their favorite tales, from the Bible to Charlotte's Web.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.

Video

How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe

Video

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Writers

Up
Down

More in Entertainment

Just In