And No Wesley

March 11th, 2006  |  Published in old and busted  |  1 Comment

Remember those Star Trek episodes where they’d go to some planet where all the exteriors looked like the lawn outside a corporate office building and all the interior sets looked like the administrative section of a shopping mall?

Remember how all the people would be dressed like Olivia Newton John in Xanadu, and how they’d be really happy with the way things were going with them? And then how Wesley would fall in love with an age-appropriate female of this culture, and they’d do interesting futuristic things together? And how those futuristic activities always involved lights and sounds and a sort of game-like feel, but with no apparent goal, and how Wesley would beam with that look of dumb wonderment? And then he’d accidentally step in a flower bed or break some planetary taboo or realize that the age appropriate female he’d been putting the mac on was actually a man … or a lizard … or made of pure energy?

Electroplankton is sort of like the futuristic date activities Wesley would enjoy before getting his heart crushed by the hermaphrodite lizard who only looked like a cute girl.

It’s a little more involved than that, but the best thing you can do is follow the link, then poke around the site to get a sense of what it’s about. I can’t capture it on video very easily, and recording the compositions that result from a few minutes of play would be cheating you of the lovely visuals.

If I had to call it a mixture of other things more easily described, I guess I’d say it’s sort of like having a mbira to noodle on, only with pretty little animals that make noise and respond to, among other things, clapping and blowing. Some of them are shaped like donuts and make harmonies reminiscent of Brian Eno’s Ambient 4 when you spin them around, and some are like little fish that make tinkling noises as they leap from the water and collide with leaves.

For anyone who remembers my fond remembrance of Instant Music, I think you could position this on the other side of an imaginary spectrum from more structured tools like Garage Band and Acid. Where they’re out to provide a fairly rigid framework with which to compose, Electroplankton takes some of the Instant Music “never make a bad note” DNA and runs in the opposite direction … it’s like fingerpainting with sound, and when you do manage to generate dissonance, it’s not bad.

Another cool intersection occurred to me just before nap time this afternoon, too: Hooked up to a sound and light machine like the Orion I have from my time in Virginia, where devices like that seemed like an escape of some sort, the Audience mode of Electroplankton makes for some very appealing sound and visuals. Very relaxing. I fell asleep and stayed that way for hours.

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