Week 6 of our 52 in 52 challenge. This one is more experimental, kind of elephant sounding with spaghetti western at the tail end.
Thinking about how much suburban homes look like motherboards, I missed my turn. We missed last week’s installment, so here are two new rreplay tracks this week. “more lost” ostensibly “about” driving in Somervill, MA, where this was recorded, and “we suppose,” because we wanted to call it that we suppose. Hope you did not miss us too much!
installment 2 of weekly track from rreplay
Gonna try and put up a rreplay track each week. This one floats away on guitar and bass then transforms into the bomdiddybom bewaka before exploding, after which the pieces all float down. Named after the things in your eye that float around looking like they are there but aren’t.
rreplay’s new album, Live from the Uncanny Valley is available for streaming on SoundCloud:
Ok, so some people have been asking if rreplay’s new album, “live from the uncanny valley” is really live. Somewhat ironically, the human automaton that monitors CDbaby titles added “(live recording)” to all our tracks when it caught the title, and I had to get a real human to go in and remove them all after explaining.
The title comes from the idea of the uncanny valley in gaming and animation circles. The idea was first proposed by robotics professor Masahiro Mori in 1970, and much of the research on this aspect of robotics comes out of Japan. I only say this because my partner — demonstrating the disturbing nature of the uncanny valley — responded to seeing a picture of a realistic-but-not-quite-there Asian woman with “What’s this orientalist shit?” Sending me off searching for another image. I settled on the one at the top after the one of Christopher Reeves as superman was deemed “not creepy enough” on the forum where it was posted as an example of the uncanny valley. I don’t know, I think it qualifies.
The idea is that people form emotional attachments to images, particularly moving ones, and that as long as an animation is suitably unrealistic, people can make their attachments unpreturbed. But as soon as animations start getting closer to realistic without making it all the way there, people start getting bothered by the familiarity combined with the cognitive dissonance of some parts of the rendering still being off. This gets at the heart of what early twentieth century theorists called the “uncanny.” Supposedly, if animation gets good enough, it can make it across the uncanny valley and into photorealism without setting off our alarms. Figures that the gamers on reddit would think that Superman, a White Guy if ever there was one, would get there first. And let’s just avoid altogether various Hollywood plastic surgery disasters…
OK, but what about the album? rreplay’s new album is not live in any traditional sense, although all the parts are recorded at once in a live fashion with no overdubs. It is thus part of the way there. But there is more to its uncanniness, which in the aural realm is not always a bad thing (at least that is where we are placing our bets).
In synthesized music, when the sound is suitably distant and artificial, it is comedically cheesy. To escape that trap, it needs complexity and a dynamic between predictability and unpredictability. It is probably no coincidence that one of the adjectives that crops up most often in describing the uncanny valley’s visual realm is borrowed from the sonic: “dissonant.” The past decade or so has seen the fetishization of the analog warmth of early synths, with their unpredictable, non-linear quirks that come from the imperfect renderings of math in vacuum tubes, rare earth, and silicon. Analog synths are generally far enough away from any acoustic instrument to not enter the downward slope of the uncanny valley, although some of the renderings could be supremely creepy, as in synth/singer 70s nowave duo suicide’s uncanny ghost rider with its interplay of anxious and urgent vocals over an unquantized sequenced backing. Not always a bad thing.
With the digital, the uncanny valley comes back in force. Much of the supposedly cold clinical feel of digital music probably arises from the audio uncanny. In digital, there are no non-linear, erratic human elements unless they are put there, whether programmed, or via the filters of digital controllers, or via underlying touch. I’ll refrain from demonstrating the bad with some 80s DX7 synth hit because it will undoubtably be someone’s favorite song.
The feel, touch, and timbre of a piano, an acoustic guitar — or for that matter, an electric played through a tube amp — are all difficult to emulate. Digital synthesists have long had problems emulating “real” instruments because the variables are simply too many and too ineffable to get all of them reduced to algorithms even with mega-gigabite round-robin samples — though great music continues to be made. The best answer I have found (partly because I can’t afford the latest greatest bestest synths and samplers, partly because without overdubbing, I would need a computer farm to play them live anyway) is not to break on through to the other side a la Superman via more and better algorithms, but to mix the controllers (and like a good controllerist, I like to get as many of those digital balls in the air as I can) and digital (vst) synths with the touch and feel of electric and acoustic guitar, themselves emulated digitally at the amplifier end — and in the case of the acoustic sound, via convolution — but played on an actual guitar and bass at the other.
The mixing together of the two in “Live from the Uncanny Valley” makes for what we hope is an uncanny adventure, strangely familiar with a dose of dissonance, perhaps even sometimes disturbing, but always recognizable for that which it is a simulacrum of by the human touch on the guitar and bass underlaying all the maths and controllers. Hope you will give us a listen — preview will play the full album.
Also, if you are in Honolulu, please stop down at Manifest in Chinatown Weds, 5/13 from 6-8 for our record release party, featuring an uncannily live performance from rreplay crossed with the dj sounds of count weevil.
rreplay is releasing its second album, live from the uncanny valley, on Weds, May 13, from 6-8 at Manifest in Chinatown. Eric and I hope you can make it to celebrate. This will be perhaps our one and only live gig, so don’t miss it! You can listen to the whole album by clicking preview at the link above.
count weevil will be laying down beats in a chill kinda LA style, and he may keep going when rreplay is on.
For the uninitiated, rreplay is an experimental improv duo. Rich plays guitar through the laptop, synthesizing it, granulating it, chopping it up, and sometimes just playing it. Eric plays fretless bass, also through the laptop, providing melodic and rhythmic grounding and ever leading the improv process into and sometimes back from more adventurous territory. We both work on the beats, and chop them up some more while playing. I’d describe the music, but you can listen for yourself above and live next Weds. Hope you can make it!
Manifest is at 32 North Hotel Street. They have excellent food and great drinks. Happy hour is 5-7.
Facebook people, as usual, you have to come to the http://way.net/waymusic page for the links to work.
I had an entry in the wiki for way music for the mess, but it locks every
one out, which is useless. Just heard from Robin Henson, who took great photos of us, and Adam Dowis, who played drums in the initial incarnation of of the band and was also a partner in crime from the outset with his brother Nick. Here is a fuzzy recording from the vault with Adam on drums: Kevin’s Sleazy Funk, featuring a somewhat buzzed Anarchy Liquors Kevin hitting on someone in his inimitable style. Also notable ‘cuz we would pass out percussion junk from a big bin for everyone to beat on for this. More tunes linked below.
Here is the Mess entry from the non-working wiki:
The aptly named Mess of Daytona Beach were Palmer Wood on vocals and rhythm guitar, the sorely missed Corey Levin on drums, Greg Drais on bass, and Rich Rath (me) on lead guitar. Palmer and I wrote nearly all but the covers, and we worked together really well.
mess in the studio
We made it into the studio only once before we combusted, laying down four tracks in three hours. Here are the four songs from that session. The first is us trying, somewhat successfully, to play a ska thing with no horns or keyboards. It is called “We Deliver.” The next one is a fast and loud guess at what 1999 would look like from 1984 if folks like Reagan stayed in power — hmmm, not too far off — Its called suburban dogs, after the last verse, which I wrote along with some other stuff after a long night of partying. When I woke up, someone, I think Bobby, had read it and told me, all hungover, this sucks, this sucks, but this one is ok, with the ok one turning into the song and the other stuff going out with the trash. I think that was the party where we got a well-known Gainesville straight-edge guy who was pretty full of himself, very wasted, and took pictures of him buzzed out of his mind in a wig calling on the disconnected telephone. That became our flyer next time we played Gainesville. Not nice. The third one we came up with during a sound check in Jacksonville Beach about a week before the recording session. Corey came up with the beat and I started playing the guitar line, and Palmer heard it and came up with the lyrics: the result was new beat. The last one, she’s mine, Palmer’s Psychedelic Furs-ish sounding thing with a weird intro and break.
The Mess played as the house band at a place called the Concrete Jungle on A1A right across the street from the ocean for about six months in 1983-84. The owner called it CJs, named after his daughter or wife or something, but hey, who was he to tell us what our bar was called. He went out of business about a month after we stopped playing there.
For a short while, CJs was the place to be for alternative music. Our friend Jonathan spun tunes, and we would play, once or twice bringing in special guests as well, I think there was a zine, other towns knew about CJ’s and came to visit. People danced, fought, heckled, drank, made out, made up, broke up, played pool, and danced some more.
Here is a live thing from a quiet night at CJs, an instrumental of a bunch of TV themes and stuff. This had one of my favorite wall of squall moments in it, where for about fifteen seconds of Peter Gunn we ran everything on eleven and a half before returning to your regularly scheduled programming. Here is a sloppy but fun version of Palmer’s GI Joe. Here is a dubby thing that we got when a drunk Jamaican guy came in one night and asked if we played reggae. He then sang something about “lie cold dead in the market” and Palmer changed it into this bastardized version of what I think is an actual Jamaican folk or reggae song, or maybe it was Louis Jordan’s “Stone Cold Dead in the Market,” who knows…anybody?. We had fun with the echoplex on this one
We left because we were packing the place up every weekend and some weeknights, but he’d only pay us $100 a week (for all of us, not each) for playing six nights…oh yeah, and all the Pabst Blue Ribbon on tap we cared to drink …urgggh.
We then went “on tour” of central Florida, playing memorable gigs in Jacksonville Beach, Tampa, and Gainesville, before spontaneously combusting while trying to find a Spring Break gig in Daytona.
There are many stories, but I’ll save them for another time. If you have any you want to share (no slander plz!), then leave stuff in the comments on this page. Post any good stories you remember.
The Revolution Books show went well. I gave the synesthesia machine its public debut. It was a big hit. I have a short video I’ll post once we get internet in Kolkata for those who don’t know what I’m talking about.
DJ Anthony Chang beatboxed to “The Revolution will not be on the internet.” He and his friend Matt were visiting from CA. I will post links to some of their music soon.
Now for 34 hours of flying!!
We’ll be back in Hawaii August first at long last! Come celebrate at Anna Bananas, where I’ll be playing as BeepLab (Bengali for revolution!). I’ll be going on some time after 10:30. It’ll be all instrumental from me. Here is some of the stuff I’ve been playing lately:
. . . and below is the poster with the details. I hope you all who are in Honolulu can make it!