Trandle Is Anything But

Posted on 29 April 2016

Fellow Durham producer Jeremy Rist (Funkleberry) reflects on the album and Trandle’s rise from “skateboard punk” to Moogfest 2016 performing artist.

In formal logic, a contradiction is the signal of defeat, but in the evolution of real knowledge it marks the first step in progress toward a victory. — Alfred North Whitehead

Dooooomed is an audio exploration in contradiction. It’s old yet new, refined yet loose, dark yet full of light. It shows the tremendous progress Trandle has made as an artist, but to those who know him, it’s also more of the same.

Randy Maples, a native Durhamite, has been dabbling in music his entire life. I first met him about three years ago at the Durty Durham Arts Collective studio. Durty is set up as a communal area where artists can collaborate and share in good times. Randy’s crew is called Survivor Squad, a rag-tag group of skateboard punks. After shredding at the skatepark, they would come kick it at the studio. Randy was just 17 at the time I met him, yet it felt like he was somehow older than me, even though I was 22.

Photo by Ryan Snyder

They say the good ones make their own luck, and Dooooomed is a project that maximizes on some good fortune. Durham has thrown a lot of that Trandle’s way within the past year. When Moogfest moved to town, they witnessed Trandle perform at a house party and RUNAWAY Kickstarter event. Shortly thereafter, he was invited to be a part of Durham’s newest and biggest festival.

This opportunity has not been lost on Trandle as he dedicates himself to the craft of beatmaking. Trandle’s production style opts for older equipment which creates the kind of texture that purists worldwide can appreciate. He’s also no foreigner to computer production. Often times in the album, it’s hard to tell where one instrument stops and another takes over.

Dooooomed feels like the amalgamation and curation of outside influences. Trends current and vintage can be heard in between the collage of rhythms. The influence of Moogfest’s ambient synths and distortion aesthetic shows in tracks like the opener AAAAAAAAAAAAA, and his enthusiasm to create creepy soundscapes in ooooo. In contrast, you can also hear the influence of his peers and trap music in songs like Space drill or yaaa. Yet, despite the many styles and sounds that can be pointed to other places, it’s still a distinctly Trandle project.

Stylistically, Dooooomed is all over the place yet remains concise. The trap vibes get blended with a hint of 9th Wonder drum sounds and a smidgen of Knxledge’s rhythm sensibilities, together making this album quintessentially Durham… but Durham in the year 2016. It’s not dirty south, it’s not west coast, and it’s not just fruity loops beats… it’s the newest thing. It’s DURM. Amidst this bullshit election cycle, it’s artistic moments like this that allow me to take a deep breath and remember that soon, really soon, a new generation and new ideas will take over this country. But I digress…

The standout track on the album is Werenweren. It starts out with a quote from Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot about being muchachos and how “something could have been” before the quote ends with “you don’t know me” once the beat kicks in. He’s right. We don’t know Trandle. And the average listener won’t know Trandle, but the music explains a lot, especially in Werenweren. The drums are designed to perfection, the bass is heavy yet subtle, and guitar chops come in and out of the arrangement with deft timing. The additions of sporadic sirens teleport the listener to an alternate universe at a house party with the ghost of J-Dilla spinning beats and getting crunked up as a posse of skeletons dance the night away.

And just as soon as you get sucked in, the script is flipped and you’re listening to a carefully selected beat break that feels something like smoking cigars on a Mexican beach. That’s the fun of the project. The randomness feels planned and the stuff that’s planned feels random. The contradictions of this album keep you on the edge of your seat.

Fun moments occur in the bonus tracks, especially the beat slw dwn. Arguably the best on the whole album, the mood of the song shows Trandle both living in the moment and at the same time reflecting on it. The chords have that melodic feeling like you’re close to making it home after an arduous road trip. “Honey, I’m home!” For Trandle to place this so far at the end of the album shows that he’s thinking not only about rhythm and sound design, but emotion as well. An incredibly impressive feat for an artist who still can’t buy a beer at the bars where he performs.

In fairness, there are moments in the project where the beats just feel like beats. But in that same spirit of fairness, there are moments in the project where the beats show you a flash of brilliance or a glimpse at genius. With beatmaking capabilities being spread to so many different forms of software and hardware, anyone can put together 4/4 loops and let repetition do a lot of the legwork. It’s becoming easier and easier to copy styles and aesthetics of artists. Sometimes, we’re not even sure who we’re listening to because of this! (“Was that Future on the Kanye song?”) But what Trandle has done with Dooooomed more than anything is find his voice. Trandle has a sound, a style, an aesthetic, and that will grow into whatever he wants it to grow into.

Dooooomed makes me happy to be from Durham, it makes me happy to be living in Durham, and it makes me incredibly excited for the future. Trandle demonstrates the contradictions of our city in a way that only a true artist can. There’s an ever-present feeling of the struggle in his sound, yet it’s closely related to and living side by side the feeling of intelligent success.

Written by Jeremy Rist

Find the album on Bandcamp here.

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