There was one point in my life where I regarded VNV Nation as one of my personal favorite electronic acts, and that was just after I had heard 1999’s Empires. A sense of morbidity flowed through the band at this time, like a sense of frailty that really spoke to me. But the band has changed quite a bit since then, and Transnational shows the electronic act in a much brighter light, especially when the optimism of “Everything” sets in to open the disc. It’s one of the disc’s strongest tracks and could double as a strong single for the disc. However, “Primary” left me a bit bored, with the vocals sounding as if they weren’t even necessary for the song. In other words, these guys might be getting a bit rusty, as comes with time. “Retaliate” manages to pump up the volume with dance-grooves, and in some form recaptures the essence of the band that I remember.
“Lost Horizon” is a strong instrumental that is definitely worthy of a rave, as “Teleconnect Pt. 1” offers more optimism while at the same time reminding me of Moby. I hadn’t expected them to go into this kind of direction, but they certainly manage to do justice with this melancholic piece that some might feel is one of the band’s best tracks in years. “If I Was” did a horrible job of backing it however, as it really just seemed to fade away with its piano meets electronic nature. Something I would have expected from Coldplay, not VNV Nation. “Aeroscope” sounds like it’s on the wrong record as far as mood is concerned, and it’s almost obvious by now that it was just stuck on here at the last minute. The static-laden electronic dance piece would also play well at a rave and has me scratching my head. Obviously, these gentlemen have changed quite a bit since my last outing with their music.
Thankfully, “Off Screen” comes in to remind me of the atmospheres that I remember from their older releases. It still seems as if the band’s got it, but I daresay that they might be past their prime. The lyrical matter does well with the music here, making for an enjoyable dance piece; yet also making one think, should they happen to pay attention to more than just the beat. This is one thing that I’ve always respected VNV Nation for and I don’t believe there’s another act out there that can do it any better. “Teleconnect Pt.2” finalizes the album, with a melancholy soundscape that actually does continue from where the first part left off. It seems a fine note to end the album out on.
Transnational is definitely rough around the edges, as I feel that songs like “Lost Horizon” and “Aeroscope” definitely don’t belong on such a despondent musical piece. In all honesty, it feels like a band who is singing about a brighter future and a better tomorrow, but with the sounds of subtle depression in the background. If you’re a fan of this approach, you’ll like the album as it echoes Empires. But notable missteps have been made and I really don’t like the bipolarity of melancholy/trance/melancholy. I just don’t feel that high-energy electronic dance music belongs in the same atmosphere as the depressing electronic nature that the group is known for. A little more gloom and little less boom next time, guys. (Eric May)