Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Time to Experiment

So over the last few weeks, I've been listening to three albums that all wildly (and uniquely) experiment with the definition of music. And while I'm talking about all three here, by no means do I suggest that they have much in common other than their uncommonness.


The first is by a married couple that go by the name Oh Astro. Both members of the couple (Jane Dowe and Hank Hofler) had previous experience in the international electronic scene before joining together (in more than more way). Their album, Champion of Wonder, is exceptional in a couple ways. First, the album manipulates vocals using spectral software coded by Dowe and Christopher Penrose, a long-time mentor. This allows them to bend, tint, and warp vocals, such as in Journey to the Center, below. (some vocals from other tracks even come from the couple's children). The other oddity of the album, and what is especially impressive, is that every sound in the album's eleven tracks, with the exception of some of the vocals, is taken from pre-existing recordings (including club music, kids' songs, pop, and rock).

Helping out on the album is Stefan Robinson, A.K.A. Yea Big (who I recently wrote about in regards to his collaboration with Kid Static on their new album here).

Oh Astro - Candy Sun Smiles : Champions of Wonder

Oh Astro - Journey to the Center : Champions of Wonder

Visit their website, their label Illegal Art, and become their friend on MySpace.


The second album I have to share is from Oh Astro's label mate, Realistic, which is the moniker for sound collage artist James Towning. He's just released his third album, titled Perpetual memory Loss. Like Champions of Wonder, the album is a blended mixture of fragments over almost club beats. The album's beginning includes many voice samples - as if you were listening to the radio and tuning from one station to the next, never stopping, just wandering. As it progresses, the mood transforms, with a deeper electronic / techno feel to it that reminds me of a danciful mix of The Crystal Method and Fat Boy Slim. At all points you'll experience multiple layers to take in and interpret.

Try diving into the following: The Camera Track, which is the album opener, and Post-Corporate Fantasy, which if you listen carefully you'll make out a snippet of Robert Plant's wail.

Realistic - The Camera Track : Perpetual Memory Loss

Realistic - Post-Corporate Fantasy : Perpetual Memory Loss

Visit his website, his label Illegal Art, and become his friend on MySpace.


The last strikes me as the most unique / artistically creative of the trio. Decomposure is the moniker of Caleb Mueller, a Canadian who also is not new to the genre of electronica. Unlike Oh Astro who constructed using other people's blocks, Caleb carried a tape recorder around with him for a year, pulling in collections of sounds here and there, dismantled them, and then reconstructed some of them into Vertical Lines A (which is the first half of the project - the second I'm guessing will be Vertical Lines B perhaps?), his fourth album.

The CD and its music are only part of the project though. Each and every physical copy of the CD comes enclosed in artwork that is manually assembled and the numbered. Along with the music CD is a second CD full of "supplemental materials" that include things such as the original sound sources for the album, a 79 page sketchbook, a video overview of the album, the recording process, and loads more fun stuff to play with. It truly is an artistic package, and if you do buy the album, I would HIGHLY recommend getting a physical copy of it for the packaging alone.

Whereas Oh Astro rings in as playful and Realistic turns technoesque, Decomposure offers a harmonic bric-a-brac of brightness. Begin the journey with the first two tracks below (the tracks are named after hours - Hour 1, Hour 2, Hour 3, Hour 4, etc...).

Decomposure - Hour 1
: Vertical Lines A

Decomposure - Hour 2 : Vertical Lines A

Visit his website, his label Blank Squirrel Records, and become his friend on MySpace.

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