Headphone Science: Painted
Symbolic Interaction

Oakland, California producer and illmatik vibes_delete:thought (aka ivdt.net) curator Dustin Craig creates detailed electronic pictures for the mind in the aptly-titled Painted. His Headphone Science material resists pigeonholing: it's hardly dance music though it's not without rhythm; it's not ambient soundscaping either as the incessant activity in his song-length pieces renders them anything but aural wallpaper. Perhaps it's best to think of them as electronic playgrounds teeming with joyous melodies and a constant flow of percussive and synthetic sounds. In the representative track “Life is a Dream,” an ultra-pretty keyboard melody resounds from the seeming center of a jam-packed video arcade where machines collectively generate a dense mass of alien chatter. “Clouded in Treasures,” which unfurls with a head-nodding ease, sounds as if it's being played at the seashore with outdoor ambiance and gull cries colouring its melodic explorations. Sometimes Craig humanizes his material by placing piano at the center, as the elegant themes coursing through “Makoto and Mai” attest, and in this slightly funky case there are even beats too. The forecast is not always sunny, however: “5CM” opens the album with a dirge of distorted voices, cloudy rumble, and electronic haze, while “She Tried to Help Him” offers a relatively uncluttered sampling of melancholia. Still, they're the exception to the rule: imagine the recorded sounds of a children's playground on a busy Saturday afternoon transcribed into electronic form with pretty melodies sprinkled over top and you're on your way to imagining Painted's sound.

Fleshing out the release, Craig's eight originals are followed by five remixes: Sokif ups the wonderland ante by adding the bright ping of glockenspiels to “Life is a Dream,” making the original even prettier as a result; Electricwest (Patrick Benolkin) injects spacey boom-bap atmosphere into his slinky makeover of “Spirits at Night”; Soma and Broken Haze transform “Clouded in Treasures” and “Coil Online” into a steamy banger and funky dance cut respectively; and The Retail Sectors (Kentaro Togawa), true to form, re-imagines “Makoto & Mai” as a guitar-based epic that alternates between ponderous and celebratory episodes.

August 2008