Happy Valley Band & WOBBLY
Indexical presents the latest iteration of pop music’s post-human future: machine deconstructions of the Great American Songbook and a battery of machine listening mobile devices.
Happy Valley Band
The Happy Valley Band is the Great American Songbook heard through the ear of a machine. Composer / bandleader David Kant uses custom-built machine learning software to “unmix” pop songs and transcribe them back into musical notation. The machine analysis has no concern for the limits of human performance, and the resulting transcriptions are extremely complex, literal, and often impossible to play. The Happy Valley Band, an ensemble of Bay Area and New York City musicians, plays what comes out.
The project has been called “a shitty MP3 to MIDI converter,” “the Shaggs meets Guitar Hero,” “James Brown backed by Sun Ra,” “the best executed worst idea,” and “substantive acousmatic research.” Their debut album ORGANVM PERCEPTVS, just released on Indexical, is a collection of eleven songs spanning pop music history. Imagine James Brown backed by a simmering Sun Ra Arkestra, Madonna with a jittery freak-out synth rhythm section, and Herb Alpert with a Tijuana Brass that must have been led by Charles Ives.
According to Kant, “it’s not exactly about getting machines to hear like (we presume) humans do. Machines hear in as many different ways as we design and build them. We should use machines to hear differently, not to reinforce our expectations—because whose expectations are they anyway?” The project is about confronting the assumptions and idiosyncrasies of machine hearing. In an era where we have offloaded much of our mental and biological processes to semi-intelligent machines, the Happy Valley Band asks us to examine the biases and expectations implicit in their design.
Interview and Album stream in The Wire: “refracted and amplified through the software in often mystifying ways, resulting in warped interpretations that are unexpected, to say the least” – Emily Bick, The Wire
News Feature in Tiny Mix Tapes: “the latest iteration of pop music’s post-human future… delirious and discordant reworkings of such classics as ‘Like a Prayer,’ ‘Suspicious Minds,’ and ‘Ring of Fire,’ performed by modern experimental and avant/garde luminaries.” – Colin Fitzgerald, Tiny Mix Tapes
WOBBLY / Jon Leidecker has been producing music under the name Wobbly since 1990, improvising with recordings to produce music which inherently resists the act of being captured. Recent performances deploy a battery of mobile devices driven by their built-in microphones, reacting instantly with error-prone variations on the notes and sounds they believe they are hearing: a tightly-knit orchestra with inhuman reflexes, resulting in structures which the human performer influences more than controls. Your phone is the instrument, and your phone is always listening. Wobbly’s live and studio collaborations with Negativland, Dieter Moebius & Tim Story, The Freddy McGuire Show, Matmos, Fred Frith, John Oswald, Thomas Dimuzio, Huun-Huur-Tu, Sagan and Tania Chen compliment live mix media collages broadcast twice a month on KPFA FM’s Over The Edge radio program.