Best Future The Past Ever Imagined
to my twelve-step program of Cultural and Media Whoredom.
A. Lark, and I'm a Culture and Media Whore.
the first to admit also that I was never into surf rock much. I didn't
there was a surf "scene" except for some beach movies my parents watched
way back when. But about 1984 or so I bought a 33 cent LP at some basement
or salvage store, The Ventures in Space. I knew The Ventures
from Hawaii 5-0 only at that point. I'm not sure what I was expecting,
but this album delivered 32 minutes of spooky dirges with plenty of floor
toms, and tight two-minute twangs. Later I heard one of their "Best of"
albums and was disappointed that it didn't quite match up to the delicious
sinister overtones of my first venture... ahem. Sorry.
going to admit a few things to you people here today, and I hope they can
elucidate and grant the understanding necessary to appreciate the state
it. I'm a nerd. I like computers way too much, sci-fi is my dinner, and
I kept every toy I've ever owned just because they're cool, not for thinking
I can resell them as collectibles. I mean, they're already collectibles!
I got 'em, right? The point is, I have certain--hungers that can't be satiated
by normal means. Sure, Trek and Bab5 help, but it's rare
to find something that satisfies on a deeper mind-blanketing level.
if there's one thing I can admire, it's people who instead of talking about
the weather do something about it. That's right, the cloud seeders, rain
makers, and bombardiers are my own personal best heroes.
sorry, I must admit as well that I'm sarcastic. Weather was metaphorical,
in that I admire the ones who can fill a chasm, the edge of which others
can only point to and say, "More of that, but better."
or Astroman? did more and better. I came in at about their midpoint,
at the album Experiment Zero. About four albums came before, and,
well, there's about six after, plus many singles and EPs. Not bad for about
eight years' work.
what I know so far:
story of the band is that they crashed on this planet in 1993, and make
music for the purpose of collecting money to fix their ship. Meanwhile,
they conduct experiments in aural control at their base, Astro Laboratories,
and studio, Zero Return. These experiments will allow them to dominate
this planet, to break the monotony, I suppose. What else is there to do,
to college at Auburn. CoCo the Electronic [Monkey Wizard] (bass, sample
triggers, misc) and Birdstuff (drums, more misc) were architecture or design
students according to an anecdote CoCo spurted out on stage at their last
show in New Orleans.
Zero. All the songs grabbed me with their hooks, wit, and sheer force,
and I inadvertently memorized every speaking part, much to the chagrin
of my friends in the area at the wrong time who hear me shout in their
faces, "I'm a cyborg!" right on cue. "Big Trak Attack" is a paean to the
toy of the same name from the early 80s which was a programmable tank that
would roll in a set direction and distance, complete with bleeps and bloops,
all included in the song. I lusted after the Big Trak toy back then, and
it's good to hear it now, aurally immortalized in a plastic disc. There's
a fantastic cover of the Talking Heads' "Television Man," and of
course, "Cyborg Control."
heavily into 50s science fiction and fact. Many of their songs use samples
from movies that can only be found late at night on independent struggling
television stations in remote parts of the South. Their live shows are
usually done with a backdrop of film clips and loops of NASA, various labs,
test patterns, and many shots of space.
backwards and forward through the albums, and found a definite evolution.
The earlier stuff sticks close to hard surf, mostly instrumental, with
less samples and weirdness. It quickly moved to more space themes, and
greater experimentation with instruments and noise. EEVIAC was probably
their most unusual album. A few tracks weren't songs as such, but rhythm
tracks of fuzzed drum samples layered with quotes, some warning not to
distrust the computer and that all personnel should report for decontamination.
There's a fantastic lo-fi song, "Psychology of a.i. (numbers follow answers),"
which is fast, punky and too short. And it closes with a six-minute dirge
that builds to a fantastic crescendo.
Picture Edward G. Robinson saying, "Where's your surf now, Moses?"
it's still them. They started as homage to the greats, and in the process
took a genred sound to a present sculpted by a vision of the future created
in a past of the 1950's, before the originating style of surf was even
created. Some of the songs are larger than the confines of my house or
car and grant me the same sense of wonder that people fifty years ago had,
of exploration, space, and infinite possiblilities.
pull some funny stunts on the albums, as well as live:
Technetium introduces itself on the first track, using the warm mechanized
voice of a speech synthesizer.
notes for EEVIAC are actually the last track, again with a speech
Text File" on A Spectrum of Infinite Scale is music made with only a dot-matrix
printer-- actually an Apple Imagewriter II. Clicks, buzzes, taps and growls
all the way to Joy Street. And it's hummable, too. This was also done live
in their last show, with CoCo dancing, pointing and cajoling the printer
in center stage.
their preshow movies was an independent film of Star Wars reenacted
using only the action figures and toys.
tour they trained substitute musicians and sent them out as the Astroman
Clone Tour Alpha. There was supposed to be an Astroman Clone Tour
Gamma, made up of all females, but I don't believe it came to pass.
You can see
the lengthy explanation here. A Spectrum of Finite Scale is
probably their most interesting work, with songs done separately or in
pairs by people in and surrounding the band. It's abstract stuff, but not
inaccessible if you've heard the band up to this point. Oh, one catch:
it's only available at the live shows or through your local indie store.
Not that they don't pack houses with the show anyway...
grand finale is a Tesla coil that shoots electric bolts for a great distance.
Audiences tend to back up for the finale.
thanks for coming. I know some of you are only on your second or third
step to Whoredom, but keep studying and sucking every bit of worthwhile
media and experience from your culture, and you can be well on your way
towards Step 9: Rabid Selective Absorber. See you next meeting.
doing research for this article and finding a discography, I was shocked--
shocked! to find that I was missing a few LPs. Oh, and EPs as well, but
those and the singles are mostly out of print, so if you have them, love
or Astroman? Resources
or Astroman? Home
purchase music or to learn more about the band visit Allmusic
lyrics and sound clips.
video of "Sferic Waves" from Project Infinity (1995)
Lark is a media slut
with a preference for animation and subtitles. Lark lives in a perpetual
delusion but not one of grandeur. He believes it's much better to disturb
than to entertain, but if you're really good, you can pull off both at
once. He is also a musician, having played in bands in Baton Rouge and
New Orleans for years. He mostly uses keyboards, but considers anything
that makes an interesting noise worthwhile. Lark still has a dream band
to put together. Unfortunately, however, 1971 is gone, Peter Gabriel has
left Genesis, and R. Fripp won't return his calls.
A. Lark. Abuse is welcome as long as it's funny.
© 2002 A Lark. All Rights Reserved. Do not copy or post in whole or
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