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Last year’s Surveillance was Trans Am’s third record—and the first bump in its musical road. After two masterpieces of robotic rock, Trans Am and Surrender to the Night, edited and partially recorded by Tortoise’s John McEntire, the trio decided to document its music on its own.

“I think we wanted [Surveillance] to be like a live album, in a way. There’s no edits,” says guitarist-keyboardist Philip Manley, who along with drummer Sebastian Thomson and bassist-keyboardist Nathan Means makes Trans Am run. Manley says the band thought the first two albums “lacked the balls we thought we normally had.” But Surveillance sounds like a band still struggling to capture its live sound.

On March 23, the band’s latest CD, Futureworld, hits stores, featuring a band in command of its concert sonics. Manley uses a vocoder-emulator to transform the band’s first recorded vocals into electro-boogie chants, backed by almost subliminal textured sound effects. “There’s a lot of psycho-acoustic stuff going on,” Manley explains. “It’s there, but it’s just below the threshold of hearing. You’d only notice it if it were gone.”

The band layered its songs with ambiance recorded in places like Union Station and the Metro. And though Trans Am just finished building its own recording studio, the group completed Futureworld at WGNS with live sound engineer Jonathan Kreinik. Trans Am goes on a nationwide tour with Finnish electronica kooks Pan Sonic before returning home to the Black Cat May 13.

Kreinik—who has also fleshed out recordings by Frodus, the Impossible Five, and the Make-Up—is going along with Trans Am to work the soundboard, and he hopes to fill in a few opening slots as Pines of Nowhere, his one-man act. “I’ve got all these gadgets, like broken effects pedals, amps that have a lot of reverb feedback, drum machines that I just use to make noise,” Kreinik says. “Basically, Pines of Nowhere is a lot of electronic fuckery,” he adds. “I’d hate to try to say that this is something musically innovative — I’m just basically making sounds and noise.” Pines of Nowhere plays at Galaxy Hut Monday, March 8, and at the Velvet Lounge’s Emergent Music Forum March 24.

—Christopher Porter

and Colin Bane