I recently had the pleasure of attending the Do Lab’s quintessential audio-visual-experience, Lightning In A Bottle. And having just come from Coachella’s desert wasteland, I have to say it was quite refreshing. Situated in a cooler environment (Temecula is technically cooler than Indio, look it up) and on a gorgeous lake, LIB already has a few things going for it. And without the draw of major-label acts like Coachella, the general admission noise-floor is considerably lower, and more manageable.
The actual venue size is not only smaller and easier to navigate, but security is mild, and the general mood is pleasant and carefree. Attendance capped out at around 13,000 (approximately), making it a fraction of the size. Complaints, while there, were few. Upon arrival to the ticket-booth at a local community college, the lines were unfathomably long due to an internet error that prevented staff from scanning tickets at a reasonable rate.
Highlights included seeing Purity Ring, Tycho, and Nicholas Jaar from literally the front row – as the crowds are sparse and it is easy to simply walk up to the gate with ease, even in the middle of a set.
At Coachella, you’ll be trapped top-side while pissing into empty beer cans for 3 hours.
Yeah, there was a full-blown water-park.
While Lightning In A Bottle goes through growing pains, and the zeitgeist of the music festival shifts its tastes from gigantic, stressful festivals to smaller, more manageable realms; they can be rest assured I will be a repeat customer to see where the movement leads.
Ancient Lasers is the collected effort of Daniel Finfer and Daniel Anderson.
We also got to work with one of the internet’s most transcendent artists – Petra Cortright.
Petra Cortright is either very ahead of her time, or very behind. Or both. Her art pieces usually use some combination of Netscape-era GIF’s, glittery-cheesy-glitched-out-graphics and Myspace=ishASCII fonts. Her YouTube channel is a hot mess of post-human exhibition- complete with bizarre video plugins, presets, and maybe its imovie after effects. It’s kinda like one of those webcam girl pop-up-ads, if it was live-streaming from a bizarre, fucked-out future where America Online and the Super Nintendo are still the coolest dudes in the room:
As we were wrapping up the Ancient Lasers album, I started looking for images similar to her glitch-mountains, which had always fascinated me – since around 2007 – when most of the songs for this record were penned. Like a nature photographer hiking through the uncanny valley, pieces like the one below remind me of some dicked-up digital program.. trying to remember what real life was like way back when:
Somewhere deep inside Google Image Search and FFFFound, I realized that she’s probably not dead yet and that I could just have her create a new one. I decided to send her a picture of Mount Baker, in Bellingham, WA. Primarily because both myself, and Daniel Anderson spent the majority of our lives in the place; but also because I use to stare at this mountain from our farm growing up:
Underneath the gaze of this mountain, the chain of events that led me to discovering my musical ability at age 17 transpired. That’s right, folks! I didn’t know what the hell I was going to do with my life until one summer, when I was bored and downloaded Fruity Loops from Limewire. I had always been able to play songs on the radio by ear via keyboard, and had taken orchestra in elementary school (where I played violin and a hilariously giant upright bass), but had never thought about making music. After a few days, it kind of just clicked – pre-Music, I had wanted to be an author and wrote a lot of Sci-Fi stories – and was usually the best in my art class (no offense, Ferndale, but there wasn’t much competition).
So my brother had given me a copy of The Downward Spiral to take on the trip. Now, this was destined to be a pretty terrible trip. Something about all my teachers being permanently happy was cool, fine, alright im learning about nanotechnology and resource-based economies; and the combination of listening to lyrics like “God is dead, no one cares; if there is a hell, I’ll see you there” while sitting in a circle of kids burning sage and banging on guitars/djimbe’s was pretty fucking rad.
Anyways, I’m in a shitty tent, alone in a new, weird school, and godam im tired, maybe ill pull out this huge blue sony discman n listen to nin cuz mike said it’s be coool…..
What thaua fuaaak? Music made by machines? A concept album about a lonely human fighting against it? Battling with the inherent lack of meaning that is OUR reality? Thanks, Trent.
Yet it wasn’t until I happened to look at the album liner notes (back when they were paper) and seeing “Pretty Much Everything By Trent Reznor” all over the place that I realized that with a computer, you don’t need to have a band.
You can just be the band.
Once I got home after somehow not killing myself, I heard about The Postal Service – mainly because one of the dudes was Ben Gibbard, who was a Bellingham local. It was a snow day at Whatcom Community College, and we were shoe-sledding down an icy hill on Indian St. because that’s what you do in Bellingham in September of 2003. My friend knew some guy that lived nearby, so we all went to warm up. Keep in mind, this was probably 6 months before Give Up had been released nationally.
The moment I heard The Postal Service in that kid’s house, I realized that not only was electronic music becoming popular with kids that used to talk shit about me listening to Daft Punk’s Discovery in high school (because this weird video game music will never be cool); but that someone from Bellingham, Washington, had made an album that was suddenly gaining mainstream attention. I was there, folks, and it was weird watching The Postal Service go from local heroes to being the band I turn off in the car because I’ve heard Such Great Heights 749,999 times this week on 107.7 The End.
Which brings it all back circle.
One day two kids from Bellingham named, quite eerily, Michael Harris and Daniel Anderson (My brother’s name is Michael and my middle name is Harris), won the EMP SoundOff! competition and were being played on 107.7. My sister heard Idiot Pilot – To Buy A Gun – Strange We Should Meet Hereand came home yabbing about it to me, saying “its like gonna be ur fav band cuz NIN and Postal Service”.
I listened to “Strange We Should Meet Here” a few times through, and then read somewhere on Myspace that the album was made on Fruity Loops.
*Queue the sound of something clicking at 450 bpm*
That very month, I moved to Los Angeles to work on music (in between a few expensive and extremely inconvenient trips to Santa Clara University for some weird networking thing called “college”).
Idiot Pilot had just released Tail Of A Jet Black Swan. I saw a post from Daniel Anderson one day asking if anyone wanted a remix done. Coincidentally, I had just finished an album I am still proud of, Post Human Era – To Build A Fire, with my producing mentor Brian Delizza. I had taken a few guitar lessons from Daniel in Bellingham the summer before, and decided to not be a bitch and send him a few songs. He sent me back a remix of Building The Machine:
Needless to say, I was pretty stoked; and asked him if he wanted to do, like, 13 more, start a new band, and oh yeah here’s Petra’s album cover:
The raw excitement of planetary exploration is captured at Celebrate Curiosity, with over 1000 of your fellow explorers, friends, party goers, celebrities, scientists, artists, and space enthusiasts. Join us, as we take a thrilling dive into discovering the possibilities at the cosmic frontier in style!
Our Martian Party kicks off after the first day of Planetfest and spans two floors for an out-of-this world experience! As you mingle with your friends and make new ones along the way, keep your eyes peeled back for space industry persons of interest from Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, and NASA. During the course of the evening, catch sightings and conversations from the most interesting Space Entrepreneurs, Sci-fi Authors, Screen Stars, and Personalities.
Bill Nye the Science Guy at BlackStarr’s Yuri’s Night, April 2012
Whatto expect at Celebrate Curiosity:
Customized t-shirts printed while you wait
Interactive galactic art by Andrea Lofthouse, NASA JPL’s Dan Goods, and others
CEO of The Planetary Society, Bill Nye the Science Guy,SpaceX’s Elon Musk, and hosts breakout talks
Short speaker sessions from prolific space advocates!
Enjoy tasty Martian treats and cosmic drink specials
Interactive video games from GameDesk
Gorgeous Spacecraft models displayed for your enjoyment
Giveaways from the Planetary Society
Get dazzled with spaced out music spun by Ancient Lasers and our Suprise Guest DJ
Dance to the undulating cosmic lights of the Jellypuss
Adorn yourself with a selection of complimentary blinky lights and glowey things
Witness live art in the making, interstellar wall projections, and adult games
Intergalactic Girls passing out Space Swag from the likes of SpaceX, NASA, and more
Delicious Astronaut Icecream and Space food Sticks from Funky Foods
Amazing lightshows with some far-out Tesla Coils!
Don’t forget to show off your Martian themed apparal by taking pictures at one of our two sassy souvenir photo booths
We have much more up our sleeves, and will continue to tantalize you with the possibilities of A Party on Mars over the next week!
This is an all ages event, but registration is mandatory and tickets are limited!
Dress to impress and be sure to wear your intergalactic best!
Codenamed “Jellypuss” and designed by Michael Clive of Mojave Makers, this aquatic LED lighting system is midi-controlled to be synced with any audio source – even the accelerometer of a tablet. Jellypuss made its debut this year at Ephemerisle 2012 with Ancient Lasers providing the music for the event.
Have you ever done absolutely nothing for an entire hour?
I mean nothing.
On March 25th, 2012, I did nothing for the first time in my life.
I was invited to the private residence of Edward Arroyo in the hills near Pasadena to experience something called an Isolation Tank. I had known Edward since the Transcendent Man screening party, but I never had a chance to check it out until now. I recently saw him at an Ancient Lasers show, and I realized that, Holy Shit, I still need to do this.
It was a cold, rainy Los Angeles day – which set the perfect mood for introspection. Four of us arrived at his residence, where we were greeted by sandwiches and refreshments. He showed us many artifacts he has collected from around the world, most notably, something called Noah’s Ark – a black, obsidian, boat shaped rock. It only spins clockwise – that is, if you try to spin it the other direction, it vibrates, stops, and corrects itself.
The final stop on the tour was in the back building, where the isolation tank resides. It is basically a large metal chamber, with the interior completely blacked out. There is about ten inches of extremely salty water, which is warmed to the exact same temperature as the human body. The air is also warm, giving the illusion that you are completely submerged in something.
Edward led us back inside the house, where we made final preparations. I was first, so I took a shower, dawned a bathrobe and slippers, and took out my contact lenses (an act that in itself would be enough to render me deprived of all vision). Edward was to play sounds of the ocean and some kind of shamanic-sounding hum in the beginning and at the end, to let me know that one hour had elapsed. One hour is a good initial baseline for time, apparently. I followed Edward out through the rain to the Isolation Tank, and he handed me earplugs, and a couple towels. I think Drew, my drummer, was filming up to this point, but as I was about to get completely naked, they left me alone to take the plunge. I put in my earplugs, threw my robe on a chair, and climbed into the black abyss, closing the door behind me…
At first, it felt like you would expect – floating in the dark. But then I realized how buoyant the water was – it was like what I imagine zero gravity would feel like. If I didn’t know I was in a controlled, completely safe environment, that sensation would have been utterly terrifying. I mean, it was utterly terrifying for a few moments, but I knew what I was getting myself into. I am a sound guy, so I started to focus on the waves/hum noise, and realized how loud my breathing was as it started to fade away. Once it was completely silent, I kind of had a “now what?” feeling, but tried to focus on my breathing. At this point, my body had adjusted to the sensation, but I still felt tense in my neck and in my legs. That’s when I realized I was still actually holding myself up – to some capacity. I released every muscle in my body in one of the single-most refreshing instances I’ve ever had, and just really let go. Bingo. Now it’s time to fuckin’ FLOAT.
(From here on, it’s really hard to describe, but I will try.)
I first started thinking about all of human activities – like bills, my job, my band’s next direction, and things like that. This was probably about ten minutes in, from my estimate. When your brain doesn’t have anything else to do, you do a really good job thinking about things. Really fast, and with laser-sharp focus. It felt that in about five minutes, I had worked-through and addressed my now seemingly-mundane human ‘problems’ in my life. Well, now what do I think about, I thought to myself. I don’t know, why don’t you think about what you’re doing here? What do you want to do? What is all that stuff outside? Who are all those people? Do they matter? It feels like it. What are they? And what are you?
It felt like my eyes were moving deep into my body, like my vision was starting to come from my chest instead of my eyes. And right when I noticed myself slipping into that, I would jolt back awake. It was kind of like being on sleep deprivation at this point, but still remaining incredibly energetic. I started to hear foreign music and loud, thundering sounds – big bass notes and something like a trumpet in the distance. I decided to think about memories and friends from my past, and it was like walking through a party where I knew everyone. Every room was a different memory, and I could walk in and interact with it – bring it back to life. Then I really lost control.
It now felt like a DJ had showed up to the party and started remixing my brain. Memories, ideas, people, music, visual images…all started to get the mashup treatment, and I actually felt my brain using itself as its own sensory input. Like someone plugged a power strip into itself. I heard a voice say “He hasn’t started using his lungs yet”, which was pretty creepy (perhaps some kind of connection to being in the womb?). It felt like a bunch of people were above me, looking down, but there was no down, just out. I started to feel really guilty about things, but kind of ‘as everyone’. That as humans, we aren’t using all the tools we’ve been given properly, and that we are letting someone down. That there is some big thing we are supposed to do.
The ocean sound started to creep up and I started to sink back into myself. I was expecting to get that horrible sleep-paralysis feeling when I came back, but I had never actually gone to sleep…so I tried moving a finger. Moving one single finger a quarter of an inch after not having a body feels indescribable. I clenched my fist, one at first, then the other, and wiggled my toes. Yep, I’m in this body again. I slowly sat up in the tank, both exhausted and completely rejuvenated at the same time. I pushed open the door, and as my pupils shrank back into tiny black dots, I looked around for someone. Still alone. I blindly reached for a towel, and stumbled out into the real world again. Catching a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror on the way out had a certain completing-the-journey quality to it. After taking a shower to get the salt off, I sat around the outdoor firepit where everyone was. I tried my best not to talk about the experience as not to influence theirs, but I think that lasted about ten seconds.
After all four of us had gone in the isolation tank for one hour each, we all had completely different experiences and explanations – but we all agreed it was one of-if-not-the-single-most life-changing feelings we’d ever felt. And seriously, the way you physically feel afterwards is like getting a massage, doing a full workout, and getting 8 hours of sleep all at once.
Edward showed us the concept video for Floatspace, his next endeavor. He wants to set up isolation tanks for public and commercial use, and we talked about all the new possibilities that would arise. What if you could skype with other people while inside the chamber? What about virtual or augmented reality systems? If I could have, I would have invested a cool million right then and there.
With our journey complete, we thanked Edward I think about a hundred times before we climbed back into the car. The quality of sleep I had that night was unrivaled, and I was able to partially slip back into that floating feeling. This morning I woke up an hour before my alarm clock.
To sum it all up, go do this. I feel embarrassed that I haven’t done this before. Until you try it, you won’t understand what I’m talking about.