US - Colorado - Full Moon 167 - 04/28/10
The Apples in Stereo
Travellers In Space And Time
Yep Roc Records/Simian/Elephant 6
Long time favourites The Apples in Stereo (AiS) present their 7th studio album and goes on a voyage into the future. And maybe (s)lightly backwards as well.
This is futuristic space-pop, but with one leg still left standing in the 1970s (or 80s - almost into disco-pop, quality disco-pop, that is)? With the
rest of the tentacles stretched way into the future. The record is even officially dedicated to the future.
Travellers In Space And Time is a strange listen at first. It sounds odd to experience the Apples in a space pop-suit audio outfit like this. Yes,
Robert's voice is present, but mildly manipulated and effected by vocoding and synthesizing tools and toys. This shield away, the pop songs start to pop-up
and unveil. Robert Schneider never forgets his trade, nor his secret recipes. That said, it's hard (for me, that is) to get to the core of his songs this
time. Simply because I usually steer clear off music with this kind of sound and soul. And, yes, about the sound attitude of AiS this time: if the Norwegian
band haven't occupied the name, Casiokids would've been the perfect name replacing AiS on this record.
The players behind Robert Schneider have expanded for Travellers.... His fellow travellers are: long time AiS knights John Hill (on guitars, backing
vocals, +) and Eric Allen (on bass, backing vox, +), plus Bill Doss (formerly of The Olivia Tremor Control, on keyboards, synths, Mellotron, vocals, guitar, +),
John Ferguson (on vocals, keyboards, pianos, vocals), and John Dufilho (on drums, percussion, vocals, guitar, bass, synth). The latter three contributed to
(well, let's just say joined AiS around) 2007's joyful and smashing New Magnetic Wonder. Then, there's of course, as usual,
a long line of friends and helpers contributing.
Travellers... starts with a pick-up needle drop (even the CD, and the streaming version does), and a short spoken word piece, "The Code". Which is
something sampled from a 1959 recording by one Russ Farnsworth (? - Revolutionary New World Method to Learn Radio Code...). Then "Dream About The Future",
kicks off, and it's quite a poppy song. It's quite clear that pianos, keyboards, and, last but not least, synthesizers are the central and driving instruments
for most songs. "Hey Elevator" and "Dance Floor" are likely geared up with pop-hooks, the latter being an unashamed floor-teaser. For Travellers... Robert
Schneider has even stepped aside to let others contribute to the song writing. There are 3 songs - "Wings Away" by Doss/Ferguson, "Next Year About The Same Time"
by Allen, and "Floating In Space" by Dufilho - written without Schneider at all. "C.P.U." is one of the more classic 'old-school-AiS' sounding songs.
"No One In The World" follows the style of the opening tracks, piano-driven with a dance-beat. "Dignified Dignitary" (a Schneider/Doss/Hill song) is somewhat
different, more of a basic AiS rock-styled pop-song. "No Vacation" (by Ferguson/Schneider) is another classy, catchy pop-song, without the rather quirky futurist
Allen's "Next Year About The Same Time" is quite different, a more straightforward song. It has much to do with the vocals. The song itself is almost a the
Stranglers-meets-XTC(Colin Moulding)-styled song. Dufilho's "Floating In Space" is a charming pop-song, sort of reminding me of the Wire's calmer pop minimalism
moments. The album is closed with the very fine "Wings Away", before the time travelling voyage ends with "Time Pilot", a merger with AiS and another 1959 clip,
this time by one Emile Franchel (? - A Psychological Method of Relaxation). Relax in space.
Summed up: Ups and downs, ins and outs. Sometimes too silly sounding, but even the most synthetic effects can't erase a perfect pop song. Far from the best
from Schneider and his AiS, but AiS can never go totally wrong. In all, too much to digest at once. But, maybe in the future...
PS! Go for the double, three sided vinyl, and you'll get a poster and a bonus track (which isn't a must, really). If you hurry up, there's even an extra 6
track 12": Future Vintage: Covers of the Apples in Stereo.
Copyright © 2010 Håvard Oppøyen