For every mega-success like the Postal Service, there are countless attempted collaborations that never bear artistic or commercial fruit, that are dragged down by unwillingness to compromise, divergent tour schedules, label disagreements, or creative differences. When successful, however, a merger of distinctive sounds can elevate both sides to new creative heights. The House of Apples & Eyeballs is a great example of how digital technology has enabled a new level of collaborative effort.
A year in the making, the full-length joint venture between the Octopus Project, which mounts its attack using samplers, drum machines, shattered guitars and percussion, and Black Moth Super Rainbow, a purposefully enigmatic collective of mysterious origin.
The two bands recorded several songs in conjunction with each other, but most resulted from sending files between each camp, deconstructing, enhancing and reshuffling along the way. That the two groups sound like a well-oiled single entity is a remarkable testament not only to the project but also to the technological zeitgeist that enabled it to take place.
As with most instrumental music, the bands seem to have half the fun in titling their songs. Wordplay is unsparing, befitting collaborative efforts this offbeat, clever, wacky and weird. Opener “Spiracle” begins with a futuristic keyboard sample tweaked near the breaking point before a propulsive beat starts charging around the stereo field and pitch-shifted keyboard whirrs shimmy and strut at a breakneck pace. The aggro-hip-hop beat of “Marshmallow Window” gives way to an Ulrich Schnauss-type soundscape. The two dissimilar themes alternate, jump-cutting from serene keyboard tranquility to a roof-raising thudding jam and back again.
“Lollipopsichord” continues the pattern, foisting a RZA-“Kill Bill” groove alongside seemingly contradictory faux-flute melody line. Occasionally, a gong. Airy, unintelligible vocals hover over a twisted drum machine, which always seems as though it can barely keep pace before stirring up a frantic fill. Standout track “Elq Milq” (?!) opens with a bombastic three-second vamp of poorly recorded garage-band cacophony before dropping into a simple, Caribou-type groove led by a straw-broom electronic beat and the melodic center: a tasteful, clean repeating guitar line.
The album is unquestionably front-loaded, as the lunatic compositional variety of the first half gives way to a fairly unremarkable second half. Perhaps there was simply no way to keep up the creative pace of the first half, and stacking the deck successfully introduces the listener to these bands’ bizarre sonic realm before settling in for the delightful remainder. With its dizzying array of beats, breaks and instrumental breadth, The House of Apples & Eyeballs is Lemon Jelly thumb-wrestling Tortoise, Boards of Canada getting humped by Need New Body, Fiery Furnaces going to space camp with roommate Aphex Twin. In other words, it’s a highly original sound that defies easy categorization. Innovative instrumental music to be celebrated.
“Psychic Swelling” MP3