Quite often, musicians from the Lone Star State have been known for favoring an earthy, rootsy, down-home, meat-and-potatoes sort of approach. That has been true in everything from honky tonk (Waylon Jennings) to instrumental jazz (the Crusaders, David "Fathead" Newman, James Clay) to blues (Lightnin' Hopkins, Johnny "Guitar" Watson, Albert Collins) to Mexican norteño (los Tigres del Norte). Even Texas' gangsta rap groups (such as the Geto Boys and UGK) could be described as part of that tough, gritty Texas tradition. But Mission Giant is one Lone Star group that defies Texas stereotypes and will never be called roots music; their specialty is a quirky, eccentric, bizarre, high-tech combination of synth-pop and electronic experimentalism. Some of their material adheres to a conventional song structure and has a standard verse/chorus format--"Inhaler Voice" and the snappy "You're in Love," for example--but other times, Mission Giant's tunes lack a traditional song structure and are collages of strange, odd, whimsical electro-noise. One of Mission Giant's major influences is the seminal German group Kraftwerk, who were experimenting with synthesizers and drum machines as far back as the early ‘70s and influenced everything from disco to hip-hop to new wave to techno--and the Texans' work also owes a lot to various new wave and synth-pop stars who emerged in the late ‘70s or early ‘80s, including Devo, Gary Numan, the Talking Heads, Thomas Dolby and the Human League. Another influence is Brian Eno, who is famous for his work with British art rockers Roxy Music as well as his solo projects. But despite having a lot of ‘70s and ‘80s influences, Mission Giant is not an exact replica of music from those decades; they also show an awareness of electronica trends of the ‘90s and 2000s. Mission Giant was formed in Denton, TX in 1996 by five musicians who had graduated from the University of North Texas with visual arts degrees: Shane Culp, Aaron Graves, Gavin DeCuir, M and Corbett Sparks. All five of them play keyboards and synthesizers, and all five of them help with the production on Mission Giant's recordings. Some of Mission Giant's work has been self-contained; other times, they have brought in various guest musicians to play guitar and other non-programmed instruments. In the early 2000s, Mission Giant released several albums on their own label, Fellowshipwreck Music, including The Sundry Foundry, Greater Than or Equal To and Plan C in 2002 and Lights On and Grudge Match in 2003. After building a catalog on Fellowshipwreck, Mission Giant signed with the independent, San Antonio, TX-based Uncle Buzz label, which released I Scream Social and Friends of Sound before putting out Brotherhood of the Plug in late 2003.
You know, every record starts off with a review. It's that little dirge the band writes describing their record and how good it is and how much better than the others so that I will review it and you will buy it. And usually, like New York-style pizza in Texas, it is all a lie. Lies, people. Unbelievably, Mission Giant are not liars. Really. This is incredible. Think Hot Chip with sexual tension and angst. You people put on your sneakers, hop into your used cars, and go find this record. Then wait 'til midnight, go find back roads, and ride around alone with the windows down and just absorb it. That is how you experience Mission Giant's Golden Triangle: play the whole thing out and absorb it. It's an 18-track oddity stuck in an age of 12-track records with 8 tracks of filler. There is little in the way of filler. And most of the "filler" cannot even be regarded as such; they're transitions furthering along the overall product. Beginning, middling, and closing the record are "I-35e s," "I-30w," and "I-35w n," forming the big-picture map. Along the way is a world full of weird things off the exits of the freeway. For electronica, Giant achieves impressive variety. They combine spacey, pad-driven soundscapes with uptempo, drum machine-driven Devo rockers. Lyrics show up only seven times, with samples of odd spoken-word bits here and there. The vocals shudder with sexy, trippy nervousness, spouted with an '80s-sounding attitude. If you've ever wondered how a nerd writes a love song, jump over to track six, "Dark Love." Who writes like this? "I like it when you calls the shots / Being bossed around gets me hot / I remember your forget-me-nots / I think about your hair a lot." A nerd. A nerd packing some edgy witticisms on being the bitch in the relationship but too in love to quit, all the while backed by 8-bit flourishes ripped from an ancient Sega system. Bitchin'. Mission Giant aren't just making noise with their circuit-bent toys, game systems, and plethora of synths. They are making music, dammit. This is no bad acid trip into noisy electronica. This is it for electro-dance-rock. Catchy melodies, crazy-as-hell drum machines, and some serious geeky white-boy pride. Taken individually, only maybe four songs would stand strong. But I don't see that as the point of this record. It should be taken together, as a completed masterpiece where the sum of the parts is what's important. Roll down your windows, dammit, and take it all in. As my eight-year old brother noted (true story) after hearing "Type A" for the first time, "This is booty-shaking music! Play it again!"
That sticky spot right where glam meets new wave meets art work is where these Denton, TX freaks fly. Not always sure what they’re on about but that’s part of the fun. Synths occasionally gobble each other up and Ms Pacman is in the house while other times it sounds like Bowie on vocals. I must say, they’ve piqued my curiousity.
Some lovely synth and keyboard work laid over Devo-esque workups. It's a bit precious, I know, but still fun. Hypnotic, actually, in precisely the way music ought to be hypnotic. Geeks of the world, unite!
Bookended by instrumental interludes "I-35E S" and "I-35W N," the nearly one-hour venture into Mission Giant's third LP proves an audio Candy Land of panoramic synth-pop that's more daft than punk. Too bad it lasts longer than the sugar high.
I think Mission Giant might just be one of my new favorite bands, even though they've been making music since the mid-'90s (c'mon, I'm still kinda new around here). Spread all over North Texas, this (currently) nine-member collective, led by M and Gavin DeCuir, makes what they dub "delicious electro-rock," and even that doesn't begin to encompass the sounds percolating throughout these dizzying, dense songs. Leaning heavily on what kids like to call 8-bit music -- drawing inspiration and even technology from those old Nintendo games gathering dust in the back of your closet -- Golden Triangle, the group's latest effort, following 2003's Brotherhood of the Plug, is 18 mind-warping tracks.
Song: "Amphetamine Kiss";
Artist: Denton electronic group Mission Giant;
Details: It's the second track on the band's latest album Golden Triangle.;
How it sounds: Croaking bass line, Casio-like fake strings and new-wave vocals come together in a slice of synth-pop that would fit right in on mid-'80s MTV. But it's not totally throwback. Like Of Montreal, Mission Giant manages to transform that familiar sound into something new with a modern subject matter and well-placed harmony. This song's lyrics seem to depict the thoughts of – duh – a meth head.;
It's not clean new wave. It's not art rock. It's not straight experimental. Mission Giant's latest release, Golden Triangle , takes the synthesized and oft-instrumental works of 2003's Brotherhood of the Plug into a new genre—which I'll go ahead and dub arcade art wave. With several release celebrations on the calendar for this week—a KNON-89.3 FM benefit midnight on Friday and a next-day reception at noon for Mighty Fine Plush Agent: Dallas Galleries Invade El Centro (which includes the band's video installation) at the college's H. Paxton Moore Gallery—Mission Giant is not only offering easy access to its new tunes, but is, on this album, making its inventions more accessible in general. Listeners get hooks, laughs and memorable beats in addition to the band's adventurous terrain of glitch, blip and bleep. The Eno, Numan and Kraftwerk influences are still present—only they're now lying beneath the tongue-in-cheek lyrics, along with the expected intelligent composition and the marriage of toys with traditional instruments. It's on this record that the gamer finds a musical haven. That's right, the gamer. With each member having techy tendencies—from the synth-adoration of founding members M and Gavin DeCuir to Corbett Sparks' DJ/laptop wizard alter-ego Geeky C and Shane Culp's day job of being the director of development for online games at MTV Networks—all seven Giants are well-versed in the joys of games, 8-bit to current gen. And it 's wholly evident on Golden Triangle in both full-length tracks and shorter, spirited interludes. So, naturally, I asked the boys to debate their most influential videogame soundtracks (or sound bites) at their weekend band meeting. Just a guess: The "in no particular order" disclaimer that came with the results prevented some sort of face-off. The high-scorers (and occasional band comment) follow:
Katamari Damacy (PS2): "Absolutely fantastic! We all agreed on this one."
Final Fantasy IV (SNES)
Dune 2: The Building of an Empire (PC): "Excellent, moody use of an FM synthesizer."
Shadowgate (NES): "Gave Jermy [Johnson, Mission Giant member] the creeps to listen to it."
ICO (PS2): "Especially the save game music."
Almost all Williams arcade games: "Defender and Robotron being the apex."
Flow (PS3): "Very Eno-esque.
Grim Fandango (PC)
The songs of K.K. Slider in Animal Crossing (GameCube)
Space Harrier (arcade)
Pole Position : "Prepare to qualify"
"The death sounds from Gauntlet and Q-Bert which seemed to use the coin slot to make the noise!"
Mission Giant's sweetly whimsical but not stickily emo (thank goodness) way around synth-pop continues with Golden Triangle, possibly the band's most charming release to date. Having staked out its own low-key territory some time back, the group is able to work on further variations of the sound without needing to further reinforce where it's coming from via covers or the like -- even the song titles are a bit calmer, exceptions like "Job Interview Montage (Snakehips)" aside. With brief interludes interspersed throughout -- not quite the equivalent of hip-hop album skits, but not entirely removed in quirky spirit -- things are otherwise merry business as usual. The first full song, "Amphetamine Kiss," sets the mood well for the remainder of the record, squelching bass lines and fragile string synths meshing with a lightly nervous vocal and a full-bodied beat, at once familiar and just a little different than before, parts rearranged in ways that bespeak the 21st century instead of the 20th. Other full-on highlights include "Going For It," at once aggressive and utterly playful fun with its endlessly repeated title and instantanteously energetic punch. Various full song instrumentals have an impact as well -- "Deathbed," with its guest pedal steel guitar adding to its air of an elegant passing into the beyond, is a full-on treasure, as is "Metroplexed," bespeaking the feeling of a hyped up video arcade in a mid-80s mall finally fully coming to life and getting down on the dancefloor. And sometimes it's all down to a perfect little turn of phrase -- thus the chorus of "Gravity Town," which concludes with an almost Human League-like yelp of "...is bringing me down!"
Well this is a challenging one, and no mistake. Not one to whap on the boombox when you're doing a spot of ironing, Mission Giant are determined to destroy your preconceptions of rock and roll with their post rock, art rock and custom-built tone generators. However, it's not all mad scientist and strange looking kettles, for they do have some roots in eighties synth pop, but it's all thrown into the huge blender marked 'improvisation' to deliver up something that alternates between steamy and clinical. From the trad rock of "Potential for Future Dynamics" to the Mogwai like sounds of "Fast Kids Sound Like Seagulls", it's apparent that they have no interest in ordinary transitions. Elswehere they take on Eno and Kraftwerk with equal abandon, pausing only for the odd Gary Numan melody. If you're looking for a soundtrack to an odd fifties science fiction movie, then this could be the place to start.
A Welcome Experiment: Mission Giant makes art-rock that is equal parts spectacle and sound. Just don't call them Devo. "Was I supposed to wear white socks?" Shane Culp is concerned because he is wearing black socks. So is Aaron Graves. That puts the sock ratio of Mission Giant at five white, two black. "You guys are out," says a band member who calls himself simply M. They take their clothes seriously in this band. Today they're in their scout uniforms: black short-sleeved button-up shirts with a gray loop on each shoulder, gray pants and white belts with brushed brass buckles. Yellow bandannas are scattered on tables and desks instead of tied neatly at the necks as usual. They're even wearing the same shoes.
The scout look, soon to be accented with badges and awards, is the latest in Mission Giant fashion. They've worn suits made from bubble wrap, chefs hats, Colonel Sanders-like "Southern gentleman" white suits with bow ties, jackets cut from mosquito netting (for an outdoor show "because we're fragile," Jermy Johnson says), flight suits paired with dress shirts and ties (for a statement on work wear versus formal wear, blue collar versus black tie) and, for the CD release shows for 2003's Brotherhood of the Plug, knights tunics with drawings of two three-pronged electric outlets where a crest's design would normally be. "We want to give people shows," M says. "We don't want to show up and play in T-shirts and jeans and 'rock out.'" Can you tell they were visual arts students? Mission Giant formed in Denton in 1996 in the arts community surrounding the University of North Texas and the Good/Bad Art Collective. M and Gavin DeCuir were bandmates in Prismatic Otter. One day the drummer split; they still had their synthesizers, so they kept making music. Culp and Graves joined soon after, followed by Corbett Sparks (The Dooms U.K.'s DJ Geeky C). Johnson and Josh Eager came after Brotherhood. And then there were seven. "It all seems very organic and not very formal in terms of how people ended up in the band," Sparks says. "It was like, 'Hey, you're doing something that's similar to what we're interested in doing. Come and do something with us.' And then it just ends up that those people never go away." Their background in and love for the visual arts affects every aspect of Mission Giant, from their matching outfits to their stage-consuming live shows that often include props, lights or projections to the subtle, clever and sometimes ridiculous electronic music they make by combining experimental, occasionally difficult elements with traditional pop harmonies and hooks. The adage that any band that uses light shows, costumes and other "gimmicks" must not make music that's good enough to stand on its own doesn't apply here. Brotherhood of the Plug tempers the electronic experimentation with pop structures, from the melodic sample-heavy album opener "Potential for Future Dynamics" to the instrumental soundtrack-like "The Last Minstrel" to a dispassionate New Wave cover of Ratt's "You're in Love" and "Life," which shows why the band often gets compared to Devo, something the group's had to make peace with over the years. This fight between making arty noise and making dance-worthy music is evident on their "proper" releases on Uncle Buzz Records and the dozens of albums they've self-released under the name Fellowshipwreck Music.
Despite upholding the highfalutin ideals of art, the members of Mission Giant have fun--onstage, in the studio, in their weekly band meetings. They're the first to mock their costumes and marvel at the physical labor and time that often go into their preparations for live shows. They joke about shows where they've caused power outages and bewildered soundmen. It's no wonder, since their setup includes four to seven microphones and an average of 30 instruments--from the more traditional bass guitar, turntables and keyboards to laptops, Speak & Spell toys and GameBoys. "We like to have fun together and joke around," DeCuir says. "And I think that comes across onstage. That's why we play toys. We're not too proud to have fun." For some reason Mission Giant's blend of art and rock music seems to be appreciated more in Austin than in North Texas. "We had this CD release party at Hailey's, and we built these turrets for inside of Hailey's--these wooden castle turrets--and we had them lit from within, and we had these banners and all this stuff, and we had this wall behind us. I think 30 people showed up," M says. "But then we'll play some completely random show in Austin and not have any plan for it other than like, 'Let's shine these 1,000-watt lights in their faces,' and they'll eat it up. There will be hundreds of people there." Sure, it's disappointing, but for them the act of creation is as important as the reception. "Whether they get it or not, it's satisfying for us because we took an extra step more so than some of the other bands we've seen," Culp says.
But perhaps absence will make fans grow fonder--or at least more willing to come out to a show. Friday's performance at Hailey's will be Mission Giant's first D-FW show in six months. The band devoted much of that time to prepare for two very elaborate shows: a performance for the nomadic Austin Museum of Digital Art and one in Galveston, which was a rare opportunity for the band to have almost complete control over the evening. "A band is never given the option to create a show," Eager says. "They're usually part of a venue's act. They're one part of a show. This was an opportunity to create an experience like in a gallery." They've also been busy composing soundtrack pieces for Hunt for Grievous, an online video game for promotion for Skittles and Star Wars Episode III developed by Blockdot where Culp is the lead software engineer. He often calls on his bandmates to create music for his projects; they've done half a dozen so far. But they all credit Johnson for this one. He did a lot of the work, even learning a new software program that will potentially add more orchestration to the band's sound.
People often focus on Mission Giant's live shows: the costumes, set pieces and video projections. And who wouldn't talk about a band in monochromatic Boy Scout uniforms playing jacked-and-miked, brightly colored kids plastic guitars? But to them the music is just as important even if it wasn't their first medium. "We try to give equal attention to the visual as well as the audio aspects," DeCuir says. Still, it's nice when hours of building castle turrets or filming videos to project in front of them gets noticed. "It is about the music. Sometimes you'll get a payoff, somebody coming up and saying how great everything looked," M says. Graves counters: "Or how they liked our white satin capes."
Avec ceux-ci on va ce poiler. MISSION GIANT existe depuis 1996 et ils en sont déja à leur VINGT-SEPTIEME album! C'est un collectif actuallement animé par un quintet de fêlés intégraux dans lequel il y a un certain 'M': Serait-ce le génial compositeur de Pop Music? C'est pas impossible, on y arrive. Tout ce beau monde plus quelques invités utilisent au bas mot DEUX CENT bidultrons électroniques divers: des synthés, de jouets pour enfants et une kyrielle de boites infernales et autres Drum Machines. La liste sur leur site devrait vous permettre de retrouver la trace d'un obscur clavier depuis longtemps oublié. Eux, ils n'ont rien oublié. Mieux, ils font de la musique avec! Et quelle musique? De l'electro, pardi! Et quelle genre d'electro? Celle qui ratisse large, qui va de Tangerine Dream à Aphex Twin en passant par Kraftwerk, Orchestral Manoevers in the Dark, DEVO, et ce genre de choses. Je vois que vous avez les yeux humides d’emotion en lisant cette liste de glorieuses références et j’enforce le plug: c’est aussi bon! Sans rire! Le genre de truc à passer dans une soirée pour foutre le feu et avoir une ambiance top délire trop cool. Je ne plaisante pas: je trouve ce CD hyper-amusant, hyper-fun. Il est imposible de garder son sérieux plus de trios secondes tellement c’est kitch. Il font même des pastiches d’électro-rock romantique (Life). Et, attendez, je ne vousai pas parlé de LA cerise sur le gâteau. LA reprise qui tue. You’re in Love du groupe hard-FM Ratt, mais à la 'M'. Comme je vous le dis. A tomber mort tellement c’est bon (forcément, c’est une reprise qui tue, je vous l’ai dit, il faut suivre). En plus, la rubrique photo du site laisse entrevoir des presentations scéniques dignes de Tubes. C’est sûr, des soirées comme ça, on a redemande. Je l’aime bien ce CD. Il devrait même être très practique pour piéger mes petits camarades de la rédaction lors des jeux (de la grosse merde). Fun, y’a pas d’autre mot!
Mission Giant is a pretty cool outfit. I first found out about these post-modern electronica demons through their Internet-downloadable remix album Greater Than or Equal To. This is an album of all new compositions, marrying together modern sensibilities (there is something passing for derranged club music at times) with an analog synth fetish and the kind of childlike experimentation of a Flamen Dialis or similar. There's also good deal of studio manipulated voices: whether it's tape or computer or whatever is beyond my ability to parse, but it's weird and many wouldn't call it musical. The "club" music has some nice bombastic keys over a funky groove with Cars-like vocals, kind of wild and New Wave stuff that shouldn't sound appealing but does. Fans of Canadian "live IDM" bands like The New Deal or Jimmy Swift will find something to like in these tracks. It's hard to sum up Mission Giant except to say that conservative progs won't like it but people who have tried out modern "variants" like post-rock, IDM collage music and so on will appreciate the genre-bending audacity and not-trying-too-hard relevance. Chill out music for music geeks.
Mission Giant utilizes its electronics in greater organic fashion than say, Joy Electric and in that respect recall the likes of Gary Numan, New Order or OMD. But ultimately it's a distinctive musical statement that Mission Giant [makes] especially when you consider the authentic sounds possible with today's samplers. Good enough for me.
Nostalgia is choking inspiration. Don't believe me? Just turn on a TV or go to the movies. It's apparent that today's entertainment is just yesterday's pop culture, with a smile and a wink appended as permission to once again obsess over My Little Pony, Thundercats, Godzilla and Garfield. All your new favorite movies were once your favorite old television shows, and even video game systems are designed to look like their ancestors. (Consider Mission Giant's third album, Brotherhood of the Plug, the musical equivalent of The Brady Bunch Movie-a slickly produced update of an old product, re-imagined as equal parts homage and parody. In this case, the source materials are the instrumental electro psychedelics of artists like Neu! and Cluster, as well as the sprawling urban operettas of Man/Machine-era Kraftwerk, with a touch of Tubeway Army and post-celebrity Devo thrown in. (And like The Brady Bunch Movie, Brotherhood of the Plug has a few inspired moments, but those are usually when their creators abandon the studious reproduction of the genuine article and start having fun. Mission Giant only narrowly dodge pigeonholing with songs like "Fast Kids Sound Like Seagulls," "Darkened Technology," and the aptly titled "Scared Shitless" (which brings to mind John Carpenter's theme to Halloween) and undercut the distant, sequenced feeling of the record with more immediate and subtle uses of electronics. (Other than those few exceptions, this album could be a collection of B-sides recorded and forgotten by any of the aforementioned bands, and as a result, the entire album ends up feeling forgettable and redundant. It's natural for every artist to use their influences as a jumping off point, but Mission Giant, thus far, are only toeing the water.
Mainstream rhythms emerge from group's visual roots: Genesis, Talking Heads, Devo - a tradition exists wherein musicians start out as visual artists. Add to that club Mission Giant, an electronic pop band from Denton whose members met while studying art at the University of North Texas.
Mission Giant emerged from the Good/Bad Art Collective, an informal group formed by UNT students, recalls Shane Culp, who plays keyboards for the band. "The idea was that undergraduate students have a hard time getting their work noticed, and that by forming a group, they'd have a better chance of getting attention," he says. "They found a little warehouse space in Denton, which was used as a gallery and work space. They'd clean it out on weekends and invite people in to see stuff."
At any given time, the Good/Bad Collective had about 20 members; over the course of its existence from the mid- to late-'90s, more than 150 individuals were involved. The majority were enrolled in a conceptual art class at the university, so many of the Good/Bad installations were interactive and incorporated live music.
"The Collective was very involved in the music scene," Mr. Culp says. "There were a lot of bands in Denton, and we were supportive of that. We'd invite bands to play. We'd have benefits, and those were often music shows. But it was slightly different than a normal rock show. We'd have about four bands and there'd be some sort of theme. For example, once we did a show without lights. Every time someone came in the door, we'd give them a flashlight, and let viewers light the show with their own flashlights." When Mission Giant came together in 1996, it retained some of the Good/Bad philosophy, he says. "Good/Bad used to meet every Monday and talk about what we do, and we've followed that through on Mission Giant," he says. "Once Good/Bad broke up, we kept that mentality. But now it's the band thing instead of the art thing. We put a lot of thought into our shows, into having different outfits, costumes, stage sets, video projections. We try to do something new for every show, so that every time someone comes, they see a show that's slightly different from any they've seen before."
Mission Giant's mostly synthetic instrumentation is not run-of-the-mill. Its members reject the usual "guitar-bass-drums" roles. One goes only by the letter "M." Aren't art students adorable? But, big sigh, if labels must be applied, Gavin DeCuir could be described as the singer-lyricist, Corbett Sparks as DJ-percussionist and Aaron Graves as a keyboard-synth player.
And beneath all that rejection of convention lies a band capable of making very pretty, and increasingly melodic, music. Mission Giant's first release for Uncle Buzz Records, '98's Friends of Sound, was all deliberate experimentalism, but its '01 release, I Scream Social , was lovely, and its latest disc, Brotherhood of the Plug, is darn close to poppy.
Recent shows have included a late-night gig at the Dallas Museum of Art and an industry show at the South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin. Meanwhile, the quintet will headline the Deep Ellum stage tonight at the three-day Deep Ellum Arts Festival. "It wasn't until the past couple of years that we got serious," Mr. Culp says. "Even then, it was experimental. We were making noise with whatever we could find: toys, old instruments we'd find in thrift stores. But within all that continuing experimentation, we've slowly started to create rhythms and become more poppy. The new record is a lot more straightforward and more mainstream. We're going in that direction."
Mission Giant performs April 2 at 10:30 on the Deep Ellum stage at the Deep Ellum Arts Festival.
Fans of Emperor Penguin and other loopy laptop funk "bands" ought to groove on this puppy all through the night. Mission Giant has created a bright, shiny universe for its music, and the songs sparkle until eternity ends. Yeah, the whole robotic vocal thing has been done before. There's really only one way to use it, too. So the key is the music. And while Mission Giant doesn't break new ground there, either, the folks always seem to understand that "fun" is the only criteria that needs to be satisfied. The songs themselves have the occasional experimental opening, but otherwise conform to traditional pop forms. The sound is tres-dork--and that's intentional. Works for me. I couldn't get the smile off my face. Okay, so maybe it helps that Mission Giant does a vicious rip of my favorite Ratt song: "You're in Love." Damn, that's hilarious. Funny, but the song works on its own terms as well. That's what makes this album so impressive.
Mission Giant play a mixture of electronic based instrumentals and synth pop that might remind one a bit of either vintage Gary Numan or the French duo, Air. Brotherhood of the Plug is the first I've heard of them although it is, evidently, their third full length album. The disc shifts between freeform, longish, ambling synth+samples instrumentals and quirky more pop oriented tracks that might well enthrall those of us who recall the early 80s with fondness. If there's a major problem it's that the band doesn't really make much effort to bridge the dichotomy between these two sounds. Brotherhood of the Plug is very much an "either or" proposition. Overall, the music might be a bit crude and underdeveloped for some mainline proggers, but I find their oddball, sci-fi charm to be a somewhat refreshing change of pace. If you're looking for that pure prog sound, then Mission Giant isn't the place to stop, but if you want something offbeat, entertaining and a bit different then they might be for you.
Mission Giant: The new album, "Brotherhood of the Plug" is just as awesomely invocative of apocalyptic robot invasions as ever. "You're in Love" is an instant favorite; "Water Wings" had an Eno-esque quality, and "Scared Shitless" really delivers what the title promises. Imagine having a pool party; you look over and DEVO, Kraftwerk, Wes Craven's DEADLY FRIEND, Ron Mael, D.A.R.Y.L., and the ghost of John Ritter are in the hot tub. Someone turns it up too hot, and next thing you know, you've got soup. But it's the most ridiculously fun soup ever. Let it simmer for a while. It tastes better the second day.
The pun of the title is played up in the cover art as well -- it looks like a block of Neapolitan ice cream ready to scoop out -- while "Forced Intro" has a Vocodered voice claiming that 'this one is for the children.' It's not a sugary popfest per sé, but Mission Giant's muse is a fun one, with the quartet-plus-company playing everything on a slew of random keyboards, noisemakers, and other goodies (the full list runs to at least 50 instruments in the liner notes). It's as charming a visit to the newly re-appreciated era of synth pop, its forebears and descendants, as any, and the roots reclaimed stretch from Brian Eno (whose "Big Ship" is covered) and Kraftwerk to any number of revivalists since. Perhaps it comes as no surprise that the other cover on the album is a froggily-voiced take on Stephin Merritt's "San Diego Zoo," from his The 6ths side project, but generally speaking Mission Giant are on their own quirky path. Song titles like "Unused Incidental Music from 'The Warriors'" and "Music For Stephen Hawking To Whistle To" might suggest a creeping They Might Be Giants meta-whimsy, but the emphasis is less on lyrical twists and more on quick, often seemingly fragmentary instrumentals. The band likes to spike the preset rhythms with oddball solos and further electronic percussive breaks on top of the ones already there, but nothing totally shuts down the merriment of songs like "Road Trip to Borobudur" or the sweet moodiness of "Black Electric Pretzel." Other points of recommendation include the random-scientist-sampling "Robotsong," at once funny and melancholy -- a bit like Orange Cake Mix, in a way -- and its immediate follow-up, "Gunshot Wound." Besides gunshots going off throughout, various voices talk about 'doing one of those old traditional country and western songs' -- not that the music quite sounds it.
Mission Giant: I Scream Social is a happy surprise. It's like getting the perfect amount of fries with your cheeseburger - not too many, just enough. It's like if you went over to a robot's house on a weekday, say mid-afternoon, and maybe the robot was a little stoned, and working on some sort of project, like rearranging LPs or wrapping X-mas presents... then this would be what the robot was listening to.
Electronic min-fest stops at Rubber Gloves. Employing synthesizers, Macintosh computers and children's toys, the groups at Make-it-fest were a mix of technology-obsessed nerds and attractive artsy types, all performing what they call "laptop rock" or "electronic pop." Held on Saturday night at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios, 411 E. Sycamore St., the electronic mini-festival featured four groups, the Dream Tigers, DXM, The Aleph and Mission Giant. These musicians are trying to turn concert-going into an event where everyone can participate. "If you have a rock band playing at a venue, you can't talk to people," said Matt Piersall, Amarillo senior, leader of The Aleph and organizer of Make-it-fest. "There's more interaction with people at an electronic show, and the goal is to have a good social experience." The Aleph is signed to the electronic music label Artificial Music Machine. Three members of The Aleph, including Piersall, stood in the middle of the crowd behind Macintosh laptops set up on the floor of Rubber Gloves. The group tweaks various sounds, aided by vocalist Melissa Adams, and relies heavily on improvisation. "Electronic music is sometimes strange and unfamiliar," Michelle Foster, Houston senior and laptop player for The Aleph, said. "We try to invite everyone to figure us out and what we do, in an intimate setting." Denton's Mission Giant, which plays electronic music that goes beyond a typical "dance" label, headlined the Make It Fest. Corbett Sparks, from Dallas, an NT alumnus with a degree in drawing and painting, said everyone in the group are all NT almuni who are artists outside of music. "We use kids toys and do all kinds of different things to accomplish an experimental electronic sound," Sparks, the group's DJ and computer whiz, said. "We produce a lot of the visuals you see projected behind us but only about half of our show is structured, the other half is freeform." Mission Giant uses a lot of samples and, unlike The Aleph, stay away from using programmed computer noises. Sparks said the biggest influences on the band, who all wear matching white shirts and pants, have been DEVO, Negativland and the rock-band Kiss. "We don't see ourselves as musicians but rather as entertainers," Sparks said. "The Kiss influence is from their live show." The group was started in 1996, formed from the ashes of a space-rock band. They sometimes use traditional instruments, including bass guitar and occasionally use tambourines, keyboards or acoustic guitar. One audience member, Nevada Hill, Fort Worth sophomore, enjoyed himself at the concert and said he had been invited by one of the members of The Aleph. "I didn't know there was much of this electronic music in Denton," said Hill. "I'm into this underground techno experimental stuff."
This Texas-based five-piece has been around long enough to produce 14 tape and CD releases on their own Fellowshipwreck label, going back to around 1996. A couple of their discs have even been released for wider distribution on the Uncle Buzz label: Friends of Sound was the first (reviewed in issue #19), and this is the second. This is a difficult band to describe; their sound lies somewhere between primitive electronics, new-wave pop, and twisted avant-garde experimentalism, seeming to do an end run around most of your standard "progressive" styles. Chaotic and noisy at times, melodic at others, the 22 short pieces of song based material feature raw electronics (audio generators, Theremins and such), keyboards, programmed rhythms, vocals (usually heavily processed) with occasional guitars, bass and drums, plus sampled sounds and speech, loops, and myriad studio gimmickry. For comparisons sake, let's take equal parts of Faust (first 3 albums), early Devo, and early Kraftwerk, put them in a blender, and send them 30 years into the future. One might be reminded of the more eclectic side of classic Silver Apples, given all the incidental lab equipment that seems to be in use... maybe these guys raided the local electronic surplus store on bargain clearance day. As a result, their music pulsates and grooves, but it's still twisted, extreme, and art-damaged enough to keep even the most cynical techno-trasher (this writer, for example) engaged for the full 50 minutes, and reaching for the repeat button when it's over.
An awfully enjoyable collection of mostly-instrumental songs made outta really old synthesizers and keyboards, electronic toys, trinkets, bippity-boops, dingy-dingy-dingys, optimus unidirectional dynamic microphones, hoopitydoos, audio technica limited edition 'st90's and zebra turntables. Oh! And doodad thingamajigs! Moods run the treadmill from happy kids music to robot melancholia to space-death malarkika, but one thing stays constant: The Inevitable Merging of Electronics And Melody. Many songs reek of Devo-style new wave stiffness. Many others bounce around like the demo song on a Casio sampling keyboard. And many, many others have provocative titles like "Music For Stephen Hawking To Whistle To" (if you're too young to be a Hawking fan, I should give you the background that Stephen Hawking is a genius who has a degenerative disease and can't speak, ASSHOLE), "No, I Don't Regret Any Nothings" (they used the double negative on purpose, MY DEAREST FRIEND WHOM I CHERISH) and "The End Of Genesis" (which obviously expresses discontent with Peter Gabriel 's 1975 departure from the band, YOU STUPID ASSHOLE). (Mission Giant - Actually, it's a reference to the Sega Genesis video game system used in the song.) I'm gonna be perfectly honest with you here - even though honesty has never done anybody any good and generally plays no role in my life whatsoever: upon first listen of this CD, I was so "bored," I had a drill bit lodged into my head and halfway down my body. (BORED!!!! HA!!!! WHEEEEEEEEE!) But second listen, I'm all like YES! I get it now and I like it quite a bit. You know how Trans Am and bands like that think it's all "clever" and "ironic" to play old-style keyboards? Well, these guys play MORE of them. And if you've - HEY! WHY THE HELL DOES "GUNSHOT WOUND" START WITH THE INTRO TO "FORTUNATE SON," BUT PLAYED ALL FASTY????????
Trading off traditional instruments in favor of analog synthesizers, toy drum machines, and other odd devices, Mission Giant combine their sources to create an amazingly cohesive 22 song album. Some folks may whine and complain, "Oh, that's been DONE before!" (referring to previous releases by Pianosaurus or Self) but those folks are simply missing the point. For you see, dear readers, virtually EVERYTHING has been done before. Accordingly, what you have to consider is how well a particular idea is executed. And, in this case, execution is everything. The music on the humorously titled I Scream Social ranges from silly to experimental to ambient to... well, you'll just have to listen and make up your own mind. The music is neither cute nor corny. Instead, the folks in Mission Giant blend everything together in a sort of heady lo-fi experience that is entertaining and somewhat subtle. Our favorite cuts are "Membranes of You", "Wind-Up Welcome", and "Secret Turtle X-14." Abstract and just a tad surreal, this music pleases our panties off.
I think this band could be categorized as pure robotica. I feel pink, I see white, I wear black and dance all night. This music is both pleasant and interesting with it's smooth use of space and time. Listening to it makes you feel like flying through it. This band is really into sound machines and uses a plethora of them on this album. Their use of machines range from all the big names in music to things like... Little One's Learning Center, Kool Toys Keyboard with flashing keys, Sega Genesis and Texas Instruments' Speak and Spell. This music creates a parallel universe that runs through an echoing pipeline with the flexibility of a slinky. These guys are big boys making perfect use of small toys. It would be a perfect addition to any DJ collection, and if you are into experimental sound, this CD would make a great learning tool.
This release is yet another example of Texas psych label Uncle Buzz further expanding the horizons of the psych-prog avant garde. Friends of Sound consists of "spontaneously generated" electronic musings by this highly irregular San Antonio outfit. (Mission Giant - Mission Giant is from Denton, TX) Cheap analog synth sounds are everywhere, in a puzzling, disturbing collection of five pieces. "Rise and Shine" sets the pace with (Casio?) synths holding down majestic chords (a neat juxtaposition) beneath a faint recitation. "Titan" incorporates what sounds like a banjo lurking beneath some truly filthy moog/modulator sounds. The album as a whole is rather harsh, challenging, and free-form; probably too 'out there' for most readers. Me, I'm still undecided. I love a challenge, and I love dirty analog synth sounds. Maybe someday, in some Orwellian future nightmare world, everything will be entirely digital, and we can look back at albums like these (probably illegal by then) with nostalgia and an illicit sense of fun. Let's just hope it doesn't come to that.
Speeded-up Robert Tilton samples, pawnshop synths, what sounds like a Boss Dr. Rhythm, and probably some fine Fostex consumer-grade recording equipment are the raw ingredients for Mission Giant's shining moment in the sun. (Mission Giant - Actually, it's Jerry Clower, a Roland TR-707, and a Yamaha MT120.) Texas bands have produced some delightfully weird shit over the years without seeming to try; Mission Giant seem to want to neither embrace that proud tradition nor reject it, but rather just to noodle away sorta aimlessly in their basement, bong at the ready. One big, bleepy meander to most of the world, but to Mission Giant and the like-minded in asylums everywhere, a singular, unique personal odyssey. Tilton bless'm.
Mission Giant is a spontaneous arrangement of well thought out organ music with samples. They have a very simple sound. With the drum machine, it reminds me of Unsurpassed Profit. Some things take me to the old times of the Pain Teens. This CD is one that I believe you would listen to over and over, to be able to hear all of the hidden sounds that pop in and out of the speakers. It is nice to put in and draw to. I recommend you pick it up and take a listen.
Roland SH-101, Korg MS-2000, Mic
Korg Poly-6, Bass
Moog Prodigy. Moog Rogue, Banjo
MicroKorg, Software, Public Relations
Live Video Manipulation
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