Trans Van Santos
Royal Oakie Tapes & Records
Trans Van Santos (who is actually Mark Matos of Family Folk Explosion, Os Beaches and Campo Bravo) begins Moon Mirage like Leonard Cohen walking out of a Calexico desert on “Wild at Heart”, with squalling electric guitars against a languid background of hushed chords, you’re intrigued. When “Turquoise and Silver” begins with bird noises and Van Santos echo-laden voice wrapping you in a sonic blanket, you’re hooked. I’m sorta late to the game with this guy, but by the end of the album’s (and they actually sent vinyl for review, how cool is that) six cuts I was enthralled.
This is country music, of a sort, but what country is up for debate, perhaps it’s a land that only Van Santos and his listeners inhabit, full of crows on fence posts, wide-eyed in the sun, looking for carrion. Imagine being in the film Paris, Texas hanging out with Harry Dean Stanton- I wish I was a walking man/No talking man/A rocket man (“Rocket Man”)- nibbling on peyote chips and squinting in the moonlight. The somber “The Flight” owes much to the Giant Sand universe, just with mariachi-nylon guitars and a theremin. “Agua Fria” begins with some Dean Wareham/Luna guitar, and moves in its own slow but relentless pace, taking you a little further down the road.
By the time “Homecoming King” ends this all-too brief journey, with its plaintive chords, far-away harmonica and organ, you definitely know you have experienced something new, something unexpected. Van Santos is a troubadour from some other time, some other place. You should really visit. Just don’t blame me if you are a different person at the other end.