On the second Friday of every month, SLUG brings unique local musicians into the limelight at Urban Lounge to highlight the amazing and often hidden talents of Salt Lake, for a measly five bucks. On Nov. 9, Localized challenges the listener with two groups that push the envelope in the experimental electronic scene, the VCR Quintet and The Soundtrack Scene. Both represent a drastic departure from traditional sounds, songwriting and performance, using an array of nonconventional sources for both recordings and live shows. However, the music produced by both artists retains a tightness and structure that is familiar but nonetheless profound. If that weren’t enough, Orem’s Digitallov will be opening the show with their unique brand of trashy electro-disco.
John LaMonica – the sole musician
Photo by Chris Swainston
Ethereal vocals haunt Soundtrack Scene’s stuttered minimal electro, fusing a style of mellow indie rock a la Radiohead or Postal Service with the shattered electronics and creative sounds of Modeselektor or Kid 606. According to John LaMonica, the sole man behind The Soundtrack Scene, “The days of chiptune and roses have come and gone. I have invested myself in a new sound, one that integrates the past with the future in the present.” LaMonica’s previous projects include Buck Dexter and Tiebreaker, and according to LaMonica, The Soundtrack Scene is the closest he has ever gotten to combining all his influences and previous work. With listed influences varying from Idaho and Arab Strap to Aphex Twin, the sound of the music is surprisingly well structured and fits together perfectly. Considering the sounds are not limited to conventional instruments or musical instruments at all, the arrangements show an amazing amount of talent and ability.
According to LaMonica, this talent is rooted in the simplicity of the format, not the media: “I’m still writing songs in the pop format; I play guitar a lot, and I’m making an attempt to connect with the audience, so, to me, there’s not a huge difference between what I’m doing and playing in a five-piece rock band, I’m just generating all five parts by myself ... and what sounds like bass might actually be a sample of a bus.” While the idea of a five-piece solo project has been tackled historically with marginal success, The Soundtrack Scene looks to expound on using a traditional backing band or prerecording accompaniment, and implement live sampling and remixing into performances. “I want each show to be different, distinct and have room for improvisation,” LaMonica says, “I want it to be an actual performance, not just ‘pushing buttons’ and triggering pre-recorded samples.”
LaMonica has seen national exposure with his musical expertise in the past, DJ-ing the SXSW kickoff party and playing shows at the Knitting Factory in NYC. The Soundtrack Scene is looking to tour this year throughout the Northwest and Midwest with Telegraph Canyon from Seattle. Collaborative efforts are a big part of The Soundtrack Scene. He says, “I enjoy working with artists who also produce and I have had a lot of fun doing remixes.” He adds, “I hope I get to do more of that in the future.” As a result, LaMonica (in one form or another) has completed musical collaborations and remixes with the likes of Lapsed, Manic Project and The Domus (Sweden).
The Soundtrack Scene demo songs are available to listen at myspace.com/thesoundtrackscene.
Joe Greathouse – Mastermind of VCRs, layering and effects
Photo by Chris Swainston
Experimental music artists often take creative approaches to their instrumentation, relying on vintage instruments, contact mics, or an array of pedals, producing most often sub-par musical masturbation. The VCR Quintet, or VCR5, is an exception to this rule, creatively wielding an array of VCRs and effects to create a sound that brings to mind the 8-bit energy of Paper Rad with the dynamic soundscape and creative production of a group like Wolf Eyes. According to VCR5’s mastermind, Joe Greathouse, the idea for utilizing VCRs as musical instruments was a natural progression, or regression from the recording process, “A lot of bands record with tape, a few artists have attempted to play tapes live, and the next level seems to be video cassettes, input devices equipped with warm magnetic sound and video, with twice the dimension. I didn’t come up with the idea; I just elaborated and exploited it.” The five VCRs act as a type of multitrack analog sampler, allowing Greathouse to record, playback, and layer sounds, effects, and melodies in much the same manner as a five-piece band culminates to form one sound. A brilliant alternative to the boring shows of laptop musicians, VCR5 is an experience to watch as well as listen to.
Growing up in the midst of DJs, Greathouse was put off by the limited palette in vogue amongst electronic musicians, remixers and arrangers. “When I was a teenager there was this weird prejudice by DJs against tools like delay, sample pads, drum machines, and even computers. I waited patiently until that wore off, but there’s still the same kind of stylistic drama floating around, even though everyone involved claims to be the most open minded person in the universe.” Rising above the trends and fashion of popular instruments or sounds, Joe manages to create a sound that is very much cutting edge without any of the pretension that surround the scene of ‘experimental’ artists. Ultimately, VCR Quintet produces excitingly cutting edge music that doesn’t wear on your brain like some of the more aggressive or loose noise artists out there, although the cacophony remains jaunted enough to keep things interesting.
VCR Quintet’s most recent tape I Hate Myself is only $1 at nobrow and a sample of the upcoming 1h86335/VCR5 split CD is available at www.saltlakemusic.com. To hear VCR Quintet, check out their Virb page at www.virb.com/thevcrquintet.