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Chachi Jones' robotic daydreams 

Wednesday, Apr 5 2006
Androids may dream of electric sheep, but Chachi Jones falls into rapid eye movement with fantasies of warm computer melodies and intricate rhythms dancing on the backs of his eyelids. The Oakland-based artist recently released his sophomore outing into bedroom electronica with Dymaxion Daydream, a complex disc that finds an erratic human heart pulsing within bright futuristic synthscapes. Dymaxion touches on the works of Boards of Canada, Aphex Twin, and Jimmy Edgar, erecting sonic sci-fi scenery that floats in the ether of intelligent dance music ebullience. Here, machines hum, purr, and breathe with rattled coughs as their counterparts drill broken beats. It's also a delicately engineered blend of electric piano tones and disfigured personal elements, such as the stuttered hip-hop vocals skipping across "Energy at Rest."

Jones (aka Donald Bell) claims he first became "possessed by robots" after he began "short-circuiting kids' toys to get interesting noises from them around 2004." He's the editor of Robotspeak magazine, which covers electronic musicians and their recording gear. But Jones is far from a slave to the keypad; his music resonates with deeply human moments among all the gadgetry. He says the biggest influence on Dymaxion was the city of Sacramento, not exactly a destination on par with, say, Tokyo, on a scale of ultramodern skylines. But most of the album was recorded in the state capitol, and the city seeped into the music. "Field recordings taken around Sacramento pop up on nearly half the songs," Jones explains. "The album opens with a field recording of my Sacramento apartment and closes with a field recording of me skateboarding once around my block." Other organic Dymaxion elements include the sounds of rain, freeways, and house parties. "All these little moments are woven into the album. Part of the idea was to add texture to my songs that wasn't synthetic sounding, but mainly I just wanted to leave stuff in there that was nostalgic and personal so that when I go back and listen to the album years from now, those little audio cues will take me back."

The results rest comfortably between a languid dream state and a rapid shuffle through glitchy terrain. "The vision was to make something rhythmically funky and frantic but at the same time ethereal and precisely detailed," Jones says. He knew he had the right amounts of both by performing a certain kind of shut-eye at the end. "When I'm working on a song and I'm trying to figure out if it's finished, I'll always listen to it in complete darkness to see how I feel about it," he reveals. "I think for electronic music especially, where most of the music creation process involves looking at a computer screen and the little blocks and lines that represent your song, turning off the screen and shutting off the lights can allow you to hear a song in a new way." Plug into Dymaxion at the CD release show on Friday, April 7, at Robotspeak (the store), 589 1/2 Haight, at 8 p.m.

Art gallery gig of the week: I hit the release party for the new issue of Hamburger Eyes last week at 111 Minna, and while the popular S.F. photo mag isn't a music publication per se, it possesses an old-school zine aesthetic that's definitely punk rock in nature. While DJs kept the speakers loaded, arts patrons perused the latest Hamburger mix of street life and animal randomness that is Issue 010. This Thursday, April 6, 111 Minna once again brings the edges of local pop culture in from the cold with "Jump Over Me." It's a group show featuring illustrator Jay Howell , whose work can be seen gracing the limited editions of the Mt. St. Mtn. label's vinyl-only output — for those who can still appreciate the artistry of album covers in an era of digital downloads.

About The Author

Jennifer Maerz


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