Music

The Apples in stereo: Electronic Projects for Musicians

It's clear the Elephant 6's founding ideals are as influential and enduring as ever.


The Apples in Stereo

Electronic Projects for Musicians

Label: Yep Roc
US Release Date: 2008-04-01
UK Release Date: 2008-03-31
Amazon
iTunes

The Elephant 6 Recording Company, a musical collective founded in 1991 in Denver, Colorado, is well known in the indie-rock world for producing some of the most influential and creative independent bands of the 1990s. Based around the psychedelic, 1960s-inspired values of creativity, unity, and musical cooperation, the once-thriving collective released dozens of albums throughout the 1990s. Some of the most notable bands to arise from E6 include the Apples in Stereo, Neutral Milk Hotel, the Olivia Tremor Control, and Of Montreal.

Most of these bands are now defunct, or at least on hiatus. Only Of Montreal (with last year's electronic masterpiece Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?) and the Apples in Stereo are still releasing new records. Just last year, the Apples released their seventh LP, New Magnetic Wonder, to both critical and public acclaim. Today, the Apples in Stereo are still going strong, with Electronic Projects for Musicians as their first compilation of "rarities and outtakes". These tracks are mostly songs previously released as bonus tracks or on seven-inch, and three are previously unreleased.

Robert Schneider, the creative brain behind the Apples, has always been a master of creativity, even going so far as to have tailored his own musical scale, the "Non-Pythagorean 12-Tone Musical Scale". This creativity, so apparent on the group's LPs, is no less present in these b-side gems from scattered pieces of the Apples' past. Most of these tracks reflect the brighter, upbeat sounds of the Apples' repertoire. There are no songs here as experimental as those on Her Wallpaper Reverie, but the album does represent a decade of Apples in Stereo evolution, with tracks recorded from 1995 up until 2006. In these 14 tracks, we find music echoing everything from the giddy optimism of their 1995 breakthrough, Fun Trick Noisemaker, to the thumping, distorted rock of 2002's Velocity of Sound.

If music was edible, the Apples' music would be pure sugar, full of catchy hooks and simple lyrics. But Schneider and the rest of the Apples gang manage to craft songs that are bright without ever being blinding. The appeal of these tracks ranges from intimate simplicity, as on the acoustic "Hold on to This Day" and "The Oasis", to the zooming distortion of tracks like "Other" and straight-up rock of "On Your Own".

This mix of sounds is what makes the Apples so engaging; their ability to take the modern, experimental elements of electronic music and juxtapose them beside very authentic, basic rock is mesmerizing. They are masters of balance, miraculously complementing fragility with force, earnestness with levity, and tension with release. For every passage of light naiveté (like "We want to make you feel all right / We want to make you see the light / We want to make you dance all night"), there is an opposing passage of epic, heavy sonic textures.

Electronic Projects is ideal both for new listeners -- as it offers a good representation of the Apples in Stereo sound -- and for seasoned Apples fans who desire tracks they may not have heard before. But the value of this disc is more than just the excitement of getting our hands on more material from one of indie's greatest acts. It also serves as a powerful reminder of the values of unity and creativity that the Apples and their peers were founded on way back with the Elephant 6 collective. It's refreshing to see the E6 logo on the back of the album cover, the first album in five years to bear it. In 1998, a Rolling Stone article covering Elephant 6 said, "It's sad to think that one day, like most inseparable post-college crews, the collective will probably splinter."

Today, a decade later, the collective has indeed split up. But thanks to the Apples in Stereo and this collection of bright, light, and beautiful melodies, it's clear that the founding ideals of Elephant 6 are as influential and enduring as ever.

7

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

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
Amazon

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
7

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

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

rating-image