Quindar: Hip Mobility

Photo via Terrorbird Media

Space is the place. On Hip Mobility, Quindar's two-man instrumental combo provide a lush, futuristic soundtrack of NASA's glory days.


Hip Mobility

Label: Butterscotch
US Release Date: 2017-07-14

Quindar refers to the transmission tones, or “beeps” heard during the Apollo space missions. It’s also the name of a curious electronic music duo consisting of Wilco keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen and art historian/curator James Merle Thomas. The band name is fitting, as it represents a concerted effort to marry music with space travel.

The backstory behind Quindar (the band) is a unique one. After accepting an invitation to attend the Apollo 11 space launch to the moon in July 1969, artist Robert Rauschenberg created a series of more than 30 pop art lithographs (Stoned Moon) through the use of press kits, technical documents, schematics and even more unusual items such as hotel menus and photographs of oranges. This approach tended to bypass most of NASA’s official pageantry to combine the technical aspects of the space program with the more mundane symbols of the era.

Less than a decade later, Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel -- two young artists in San Francisco -- took on a similar project. Evidence consisted of several thousand photographs from NASA’s archives -- stark black-and-white images depicting all manner of space research, much of it leaning towards the banal and odd: men in blazers and hard hats inspecting fire retardant material, a lone car burning in a field, primitive-looking strands of cables pouring out of computer mainframes. Think "David Lynch meets The Right Stuff."

Jorgensen and Thomas used these artworks as the basis for a multimedia project, combining the images in a live music setting with instrumental electronic music that often samples clips from NASA audio archives. The music on Hip Mobility, however, never really exploits the audio samples in a forced manner; the compositions are not overloaded with all the usual “Houston, we have a problem” soundbites. Rather, the space program sounds are used relatively sparingly and tastefully, nicely augmenting the already rich sonic atmosphere.

Although primarily electronic in nature, the music has a warm, inviting vibe and an almost chill-out feel reminiscent of bands like Thievery Corporation. You could call it dance music, but it’s lush and subtle and virtually devoid of dancefloor bangers. Album opener “Twin Pole Sunshade for Rusty Schweikart” is an understated, mid-tempo scene setter with an insistent, skittering beat under luxuriant synth chords. “Wembley” shifts gears with its lazy funk beat and sharp keyboard stabs that weave their way in and out of mission control announcements like “First stage engines will ignite at three-point-one seconds.” It’s an odd combination, but it works -- Jorgensen and Thomas are masters of creating the perfect ambience.

The synthetic nature of much of the music occasionally takes a backseat for a more organic approach. “Italian Conversation” has a lovely, relaxing Mediterranean feel, thanks to a couple of acoustic guitars combined with tastefully executed retro-synthesizers. “Arabella & Anita” evokes film scores from a bygone era, with dramatic piano and strings reminiscent of a long-lost Ennio Morricone recording session.

For an album that is focused on a unique, singular concept, the tone of the album is full of variety. For every stark film score moment, there’s a dash of playfulness. Album closer “Honeysuckle This Is Houston” is a light, infectious slice of plastic dance funk. The track opens with the aforementioned Quindar tones before quirky, robotic blips and beats take over. Samples of NASA’s best and brightest pepper the song, creating yet another quirky dichotomy where space exploration lives comfortably alongside techno beats.

It’s important to note that this project’s background shouldn’t dissuade music fans uninterested in NASA history from checking out the music. While Quindar is based on the unique conflation of space exploration and art, it is, after all, still art. A warm, multilayered collection of music that just happens to be alive with the rich, historical pulse of space.


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

This film suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

Here comes another Kompakt Pop Ambient collection to make life just a little more bearable.

Another (extremely rough) year has come and gone, which means that the German electronic music label Kompakt gets to roll out their annual Total and Pop Ambient compilations for us all.

Keep reading... Show less

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.