Track of the Day: 'Trance Manual'

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
Presented by

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

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

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

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Entertainment

Just In