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Traps PS are a band that breaks “less is more” all the way down to “less is everything.” You get it: like the Minutemen, the songs are short because they don’t need to be long. And like the Minutemen, sixty seconds of Traps PS hits harder and resonates longer than five-ten-twenty sloppy minutes from somebody else. Or like Gang of Four, who got it from James Brown, who is a fundamental Traps PS inspiration—Traps PS cares about discipline, rhythm and clarity. Says drummer Miles Wintner: “We don’t waste time.” They’ve always been unafraid to do what needed to be done, this practically telepathic trio of Wintner, bassist/backing vocalist Danny Miller and singer/guitarist Andrew Jeffords. They recorded and released records on their community-oriented/community-involved label Papermade and played any space they’d fit—lost all ages institutions like L.A.’s Pehrspace or not-exactly legal “guerilla” shows on city streets and in dusty Inglewood oil fields. But with their first full-length in three years coming into focus, they found L.A. independent label Innovative Leisure ready to amplify that DIY capability:
“We’ve done so much in our own bubble that it was exciting to explore another aspect,” says Jeffords. “I’m enjoying inviting people into our family. By the time they walked into Long Beach’s Jazzcats studio—where label mates like Hanni El Khatib and the Molochs recorded with producer Jonny Bell—they had more than twenty songs nearly fully finished, trimmed to their most necessary components and rehearsed only enough to sharpen the original inspiration. That was the most important part, says Jeffords, to capture that ecstatic lightning-strike instant that sparked a song in the first place, and to make sure it never fizzled out. “If we didn’t have that feeling,” he adds, “the song would have never made it out of the rehearsal studio.”
Their last full-length was about energy, says Jeffords, an echo of the helicopters that shook the walls in his old apartment and the car crashes in the street. New Chants would be darker in tone and color, he thought—about people and their machines, and the blurring relationship between them. Like the way you can sometimes see your reflection in a TV screen—maybe you lose track of where the media starts and you begin. If “Fourth Walls” didn’t make it obvious, the black border around their cover art does: Traps PS knows there’s always a frame around the image.
This is where the real spirit of that first wave of post-punk is at work on New Chants. It’s that uneasiness with the future and the unpredictable effects it brings, and an effort to make an unpredictable new music to meet it. (Possibly related: there’s actually one of the Jazzcats studio cats playing piano on this album, but not where you’d think.)
New Chants is an album about watching and being watched, about white noise and negative space, about how what’s undone or unplayed or unsaid is just as deliberate and meaningful as everything else. Jeffords even perforated his lyrics sheet with “…” ellipses—negative space in the language itself. So think Wire’s precision minimalism, antidote to the over-the-top spectacle of punk and pop both. You’ll hear it in “Seven Voices” or the album’s title track. Think Public Image and that caustic, corrosive—and purer for it—dissonance.
You’ll hear it in “Two Truths,” with its ragged semi-chorus of “Emmmmmmbrace …” Think the Contortions, who tore out everything in their songs except the rhythm and discovered there wasn’t much else they’d needed anyway, except for some saxophone used more as flamethrower than musical instrument. You’ll hear that as “Fourth Walls” falls in on itself. And then think about Traps PS, who thought about what they didn’t need and then threw it out, and who made an album only out of what they felt mattered most: “Let it be what it is,” says Jeffords. New Chants is barely twenty minutes long—but it’s got everything.