I love when music gets filtered through my brain in very cinematic terms. I suppose I should clarify that statement a bit. I am not talking about envisioning grandiose gestures or pretentious art house drivel… no, it’s more like cult trash favorites. B-movies, exploitation, low-budget shlock, generally just stuff that other people consider garbage. That’s where I wallow. So when I first listened to Oberlin, Ohio synth duo Wax Monsters‘ recent self-titled album my mind went right to my brains back catalog of outsider cinema.
You see the album play out in very movie-like terms, and the best part is that it is content to hop around from place to place, leaving it the responsibility of the listener to play catch-up. At times it sounds like the score for some lost 1980′s horror gem before switching to something much more science-fiction-based, all while operating safely within the world known as pop music. In fact, the first thing I asked member Matthew Gallagher about the album was if any particular genre movie scores played a part in inspiring the album’s sound. From there he told me about looking to artists like Philip Glass (who, don’t forget, scored Candyman and its sequel!), Oneohtrix Point Never, Joy Division, as well as a myriad of 1980′s pop stars for inspiration.
I also asked Matt to share some thoughts on the album. Here’s what he had to say:
This is album feels like my bar-mitzvah… or at least some kind of weird coming of age ceremony. As I sit here writing this, my bandmate Luke is probably off somewhere programming something badass or drinking something with gin in it, but I know he feels the same. This very well might be the first and last Wax Monsters full-length ever made, and that’s why it was so crucial that we make it definitive of who we are. During the making of our first two EPs, Luke and I often found ourselves at odds. We would sit down to write together, and it was pretty tough to reconcile our disparate ideas. I like to produce dark, psychedelic tracks and Luke is into quirky lucidity. It took us two years of experimentation, but we finally made a record that successfully combined these two sensibilities in a way that satisfied us.
Luke and I also have a serious love for old analog synths. The machines we used to create this album have influenced us almost as much as the artists who used them when they were cutting edge. We had the supreme pleasure of getting a very old and battered Korg MS-10 on loan from the conservatory at Oberlin. It’s definitely the most dynamic and unpredictable of the synths we used on the record. It can sound like an abstract version of anything—a roaring tidal wave, a mewing kitten, a distorted guitar, or phatty bassline. Using the MS-10 definitely allowed us to push the boundaries of our synth programming and access a greater degree of weirdness in our tunes.
By now you can probably tell that we’re both really into machines. Which brings me to the next reason this album is really nerdy: Luke and I needed a common theme to inspire us in our songwriting. Luke is a really brilliant programmer and I’m into sci-fi and cyberpunk video games, so it was only natural that we write songs about the technological singularity (duh). Each song in this album represents a different vignette in the lived experience or imaginary world of the singularity. I’ll give an example: the tune “Disentanglement” on first listen is a simple pop song, but its actually about quantum encryption. “(lambda <3)” sounds like a love song, but its really about open source software and the urgency of keeping information free.
Ultimately, this album was about taking risks and challenging ourselves. It was about doing whatever the fuck we wanted to and not caring who thought it was dorky or dated. It was about making a diverse and immersive album mixed and mastered at a semi-pro level. It was about loving our friends and trying to find a deeper connection with them through dance and movement. Most of all though, it was about exploring a world of increasingly powerful information technology and confronting the fact that it can be used equally for the purposes of hatred or love. Whatever is in store for our feeble human frames in the future, Luke and I will be there to stand with those who believe that all minds and (cybernetic?) bodies should be free.
This post is dedicated to all those cyberpunks who fight against injustice and corruption every day of their lives.
Wax Monsters is available as a free download as well as on limited cassette through Buddha Tapes.