Trans Van Santos: Moon Mirage

Trans Van Santos (the alternate ego of Mark Matos) has a rather strange approach to his rather strange brand of folk/alt-country. Trans Van Santos is Bill Callahan filtered through the Meat Puppets during their early phase when ingesting lysyergic acid dythalymide while in the studio was a regular occurrence. “Wild at Heart” is a melancholy musing on a roamer’s unease in a sedentary environment. The heavy tremelo on the guitars and distorted harmonica evoke thoughts of an empty western desert landscape, which is fitting from Matos, an Arizona native.

“Turquoise and Silver” carries on the western theme but has a dreamlike stream of conscious quality to the lyrics that particularly imbeds itself in ones head. The droning vocals mix particularly well with a sparing touch of a hammond organ contributing to the mix. “Rocket Man” (not a cover of the Elton John one) is a simple folk song, perhaps a bit too simple. “Rocket Man” does not have much going for it, preceded by two much more superior songs the underwhelming track fails live up to the potential of the rest of the album. “The Flight” is a much more down-tempo oddly structured track, with a strong resemblance to Bill Callahan’s early work as Smog.

“The Flight” lacks consistency and takes somewhat unpredictable turns which build to an anticlimactic ending. “Agua Fria” is a return to the dreamlike rambling that uses western influences tinged with psychedelia to create a soothing backdrop for the nonsensical lyrics. “Homecoming” closes the release with a more traditional take on Trans Van Santos’ idea of folk. The warbling organ and slide guitar are used to great affect in order to lift Matos’ low energy performance to a bizarre level of intensity. “Homecoming” then transitions into a hidden track that is a rather solid solo man and acoustic folk performance. “The Return to Earth” might as well be the title of the track since it’s morbid (but still delivered in an upbeat style) lyrics are about just that.

Trans Van Santos is worth giving a listen to if only on the unique inconsistencies of his songs alone. While there are no shortage of folk acts in the present, Matos finds a way to infuse the psychedlic into it in a way that not many have pulled off successfully.

Rating: 8.0/10
Buy: iTunes

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