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Transformantra
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n the densely populated electronic scene — greatly comprised of solo artists and duos — the sight of a four-piece band is a rare surprise. Even harder to find are groups that truly defy the trappings of operating within a defined genre.

Enter Transformantra, and their body of work from 1995-1999. Perhaps it was the interplay of Transformantra’s four members that allowed them to flourish outside a “style of the month”. Each member seemed to give the music his/her own funked up vision of how the universe should sound. Weeding out predictability was an easy task with the headstrong soundsmiths of Transformantra on hand.

The group's story began in the summer of 1995 in Toronto, when four noisy friends — Mike Gibbs, Will Mokrynski, Nancy Nieuweboer and Will Skol — began an ongoing series of jam sessions. Their interest in the harder sides of techno, drum and bass, dub, hip hop, and electro inspired them to concoct their own beat-driven sound. Over the following two years they cooked up their debut 12-inch Liquor Mart (1997), and the Transformantra CD (1998). The disc was met with critical acclaim.

Stellar Reviews for Transformantra in 1998

“...a top-ranking set of steady, powerful digital beat explorations... Transformantra spin original accents onto the techno form, expanding the genre while keeping techno’s original searching spirit in mind... Impressive stuff.”
Urb

“This Toronto quartet purvey a refreshing brand of funky electronica that’s at once rhythmically elastic and texturally warped. Avoiding sonic clichés and categorization ain’t easy in 1998, but Transformantra manage to produce challenging music that bursts free of the demands of both clubs and the home-listening experience.”
Alternative Press

“An album that took me by surprise... Transformantra manage to develop their own 66 minutes of sound which covers all the bases analog and digital. “Satan’s Address” is a mid-tempo track with flanged moog-style bass keyboards and a dense beat. The album evolves and expands on the darker, slower “Glaci-ied” that begins with spacey ambience a la Orb before releasing a chopped break. Nice.”
XLR8R

“...this crew keeps it on the good foot, albeit twisted, mangled funk, throwing in liberal doses of dub on “Satan’s Address” and “Nugget Matic.” “Glaci-ied” is a chilly enclave of pointillist pulses and icy synth washes. “Fragments Of Illumination” is ‘80s electro with its fierce static rhythms and its propulsive grooves... Transformantra has made the transition into being one of the most exciting techno acts around, and this debut shouts out loud and clear that they can match anybody, anywhere.”
Exclaim!

Unfortunately, despite all of the great reviews, and the immediate sell-out of the CD's initial pressing, the young record label that issued the releases (Silver USA) went belly-up.

Undeterred, Transformantra set about recording a follow-up album. Transformantra 2 caught the ear of Dave Allen (Gang Of Four, Shriekback) and his World Domination Recordings label (whose roster included Loop Guru, 60 Channels and Perfume Tree, amongst other notables). But just as this new record deal was being finalized in 1999, and World Domination's email newsletters were announcing Transformantra's forthcoming second release, THAT label closed up shop as well. Unfortunately, the band decided to follow suit, with its members pursuing various other musical and non-musical endevours.

The Decibel Palace Remasters

Cut to 2006 and the remastering of Transformantra's debut CD and 12" as a combined online-only release. This new expanded version of the album includes the previously-unreleased "Reelization" — an explosive industrial dub improv recorded live during the group's 1998 Canadian Music Week set in Toronto (which also saw the appearance of Solvent on the same bill).

Also released in late 2006 was the long-awaited unveiling of Transformantra 2. Although the album was originally recorded in 1998-99, its nine tracks have aged remarkably well. With the exception of "Lover" (the only previously-released track of the set, and the group's sole exploration of a distinct genre — i.e. drum and bass), the album is a bold continuation of the dub-informed pan-genre sound that Transformantra was becoming known for.

Transformantra Live

In performance, Transformantra was a hybrid of live instrumentation and on-the-fly remixing. Heightening the show was dancer King Svenie, a veteran of the Toronto rave scene and a truly crazed illustrator. Costuming himself head-to-toe — with the unmistakable purpose of attempting to make contact with the outer regions of the cosmos — King Svenie brought a bizarre theatrical element to the music.

And the band’s gigs drew praise from respected sources. After Transformantra’s appearance at a party entitled the Black Lodge, Ken Downie of The Black Dog (Warp Records) wrote a glowing review of the group on his official website, saying “...The real stars of the evening were the local talent. An awesome technofoursome-inthemouldofkraftwerk totally blew the minds of everyone...”

Besides the Black Dog, Transformantra shared the stage with other luminaries such as Alex Paterson (The Orb), Stacey Pullen and Psychick Warriors Ov Gaia.

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