“What I love about this record is that I don’t remember making it.”
So says Victor DeLorenzo—he of the original Violent Femmes lineup, he of the long-running Nineteen Thirteen duo—about his latest EP, Tranceaphone. It’s a bold statement. Like anything related to his “solo” career (more on that word in a moment), the five-track Tranceaphone is a wonderfully weird and meticulously produced collection of songs that sounds anything but tossed-off. And yet, according to DeLorenzo: “I thought it worked the first time I heard it. I didn’t want to change anything.”
The title of the EP, of course, refers to the floor-tom-and-metal-bushel-basket instrument that DeLorenzo concocted during his early days with the Femmes. But while the name nods to the past, the EP itself refuses to wallow in nostalgia: the opening title track is a snappy rocker that grabs listeners with a dirty guitar and a mantra-like lyric (“You’re never alone / With a tranceaphone”). The broken sci-fi intro of “Invisible Shadows” gives way to a moody wash of percussion, keyboards, and mournful sentiments. (Oh, and whistling, too.) Closer “When She’s There,” meanwhile, inverts the title of The Zombies’ classic “She’s Not There” and features otherworldly background vocals from Monia (a.k.a. DeLorenzo’s daughter Kiko).
“It’s a thing I can listen to over and over again,” DeLorenzo says. “I like playing it for people. That’s not always the case. But it seems to me this [record] is what it was meant to be.”
Recorded at the drummer’s longtime Past Office studio, and mastered by Justin Perkins at Mystery Room Mastering, Tranceaphone may be a “Victor DeLorenzo” release (a follow-up to his 2013 self-titled debut), but it’s a clear work of collaboration. (“That’s the worst word: ‘solo.'”) DeLorenzo’s Nineteen Thirteen partner-in-crime Janet Schiff provides cello, synth, and/or bass on every track; Milwaukee mainstays Mike Hoffmann and Matt Meixner pitch in on “Tranceaphone” and “When She’s There,” respectively.
“I never know what’s going to dictate the sound. It’s up to the material,” DeLorenzo says. “You try and accommodate that materiel in some way that you don’t even know anything about. But you figure it out. You just have to be open to it.”
Feeling alone in these bizarre and (self-)isolated times? Of course you are. Listen to the title track of Tranceaphone below, and remember that, if you’re open to it, you’ll never be alone again.