002. Ampbuzz Is For Lovers
003. The Dawn & Jitters
004. Stabbed By Grace
005. Maybe Soon The Lakeflies
006. Brow Of Zeus
008. The Damocles File
010. New Chrome
011. Hallelujah, The Jetpack Dandies
012. Meet You
Suggested Tracks: 1, 2, 4, 6
FCC Warning: #10
Top 20 Add @ CMJ
Charted #90 at CMJ Top 200
1. Bed of Stars **
2. Arise **
3. So Pretty
4. 73rd and Something
6. Molecules Kissing
7. Shoot the Lights Out **
8. The Kids
Suggested Tracks: 1, 2, 7
#6 ADD at CMJ
Charted #121 at CMJ Top 200
Longstanding denizens of the Twin Cities space-rock underground, Dallas Orbiter is a Minneapolis-based quintet that pulls surprisingly catchy songs out of a wide-ranging sonic palette. 70s art-rock, widescreen psychedelia, abstract noise, out-jazz, and electronic production techniques all find their way into the band's imaginative arrangements.
The group began with long Krautrock and electric Miles Davis-inspired space jam sessions in the late nineties featuring singer and guitarist Mark Miller, bassist/guitarist Daniel Gahres, Rhodes piano and analog synth master Jonathan Schmig, and drummer Greg Flanagan. The current lineup solidified in 2000 when multi-instrumentalist Eric Lodahl joined up on bass, guitar, filters, Farfisa, and lap steel. Soon after, the band went to work on their first recording project in a tiny practice space near downtown Minneapolis.
Dallas Orbiter's first self-titled cd was released in a handsome, handmade, hand-numbered limited edition in 2002. Fakejazz.com declared it a "slab of psych-pop/rock genius." A super limited (and again hand-packaged) experimental ep followed in 2003, entitled "Dallas Orbiter in a Vat of Laser." The winter of 2002-2003 was spent building a studio in drummer Flanagan's basement.
A second full-length cd, (the first recorded in their home studio) entitled "Magnesium Fireflies" was released on Princess Records in January of 05. The record attracted rave reviews for its atmospheric arrangements and creative forays into a wide array of styles and influences, also managing to find its way into a number of Twin Cities music writers' year-end Top Ten lists.
January of 2008 sees the official release of Dallas Orbiter's third full-length entitled MOTORCYCLE DIAGRAMS, again on Princess Records. With yet another DIY effort, the band continues looking forward, raising the tempos while assimilating even more disparate influences and approaches to music-making.
(In these two minutes, Dallas Orbiter runs laps around what the High Llamas have been trying to pull off for over a decade. That astounding ease with influences and subsequently ability to transform them into something uniquely interesting oozes from every song here-beautiful.
Each song is an impressive piece of work, showcasing a band capable of expertly interlacing vocals with music, never letting one side of the equation overpower the other.
– Splendid Ezine
Magnesium Fireflies magically melds the mystic experimentalism of Pink Floyd, the quirky playfulness of the Flaming Lips, and the honey-soaked harmonies of the Hang Ups.
– City Pages
Dallas Orbiter spent a year building a home studio in the basement of drummer Greg Flanagan, and its new CD, Magnesium Fireflies, is proof that that time was wisely spent. The spacey, psychedelic set is full of intricately constructed jamming, but the layers and overdubs the band added while self-producing the record give Fireflies a real richness that should please fans of Miles Davis and More-era Pink Floyd. True to its well-chosen name, Dallas Orbiter plays music that sometimes floats as if it's barely tethered to Earth, but there's also an undeniable pop sensibility at work, especially on the CD's first two songs, the Syd-Barrett-esque "Bed of Stars" and the straight-up anthem "Arise."
– The Onion
A.V Club - Twin Cities ONION
Localized The decade in local music: 2008
The band: These five guys dared to strip away the theatricality and bombast of '70s glam rock, only to find there was something substantial underneath it after all.
The album: For anyone who thinks that all the fun of glam rock comes from the stage show and makeup, Dallas Orbiter proves that notion false. Motorcycle Diagrams sucks listeners in from the start without even a hint of eyeliner, and it's hard to shake afterward. "Hallelujah, The Jetpack Dandies" sounds like it could have been on David Bowie's Aladdin Sane or Hunky Dory, while "Ampbuzz Is For Lovers" has an ear-splitting intro that would turn Josh Homme green with envy. But what holds the gleaming, slippery, mercurial stew together is the Farfisa organ. Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd fans may cry foul, but the rest will simply listen and wonder why glam rock isn't more popular today.
2008 Pop music: Best records had confidence on track
By Ross Raihala 12/28/2008
If there is a common thread running among the best records of 2008, it's one of confidence, whether it was Atmosphere flirting with the mainstream, Portishead reinventing themselves after an extended break or Gary Louris stepping out on his own for the first time. Here's a look at the best of what the year had to offer:
8. Dallas Orbiter, Motorcycle Diagrams (Princess Records): Under-the-radar fivesome Dallas Orbiter could easily slip into self-parody if they didn't clearly have such a passion for smart, squealing and over-the-top guitar rock. Fans of early Pink Floyd, "Ziggy"-era David Bowie and more recent Muse albums will find much to adore here.
Key tracks: "Ampbuzz Is for Lovers," "The Damocles Files"
Thu., December 4, 9:00pm
Local reviewers have described Dallas Orbiter as a psychedelic, spaced-out group of retrogazers. And while there is certainly some degree of substance to those labels, the quintet can't be defined by hippie banter alone. There's a wealth of tracks from this year's Motorcycle Diagrams that condense those comparative labels and overshadow them with ingenuity. Throughout the band's album is a balance of old and new; pulsing keyboards offset gripping guitars, colliding with tasteful pop arrangements. All of which will be on display when the band hits up the Hexagon Bar Thursday night, playing with local instrumental band Build My Gallows High and Dante & the Lobster. 21+. -Chris DeLine
Metromix Twin Cities Roll Call
Your weekly guide to music on the Twin Cities' small stages
Mind bending psychedelic rock has never exactly been the Twin Cities scene’s calling card, but two bands currently gigging regularly are doing plenty to change that perception, and both are in action tonight.
Those seeking narcotized droning rock ‘n’ roll lullabies to soothe them should check out To Kill a Petty Bourgeoisie at the Turf Club—the sound of feedback is rarely this beautiful. (9 p.m., $TBD, 21+)
For a sound equally prone to flights of feedback fed fancy but more enamored of twitchy prog-rock time signatures, check out Dallas Orbiter’s space rock textures at the Hexagon Bar. It’s a win-win either way for lovers of adventurous outer fringes rock. (9 p.m., Free, 21+) -Rob van Alstyne
Over indulgence from aging jazz-rockers
From it’s sketchy, disjointed beginnings, punctuated drums, scattered guitar riffs and some tasty feedback, the jazz-rock offerings of Minneaplis four piece Dallas Orbiter’s third album ‘Motorcycle Diagrams’ begins it’s descent. I say descent, as the album is challenging to like in the first instance. It’s a difficult listen when the band are messing around and more comfortable to take in when they resort to comprehensible arrangements, such as on the upbeat, riff-driven ‘Amp Buzz Is For Lovers’, a more standard rock song than the jazzier offerings that crop up throughout. ‘Amp Buzz…’ has a sense of the seventies to it, of stadium rock gone indoors. The vocals aren’t exactly melodious or the melody easy to follow but there is something about it that works, however briefly.
The band are capable of broader, Mercury Rev-esque soundscapes too, such as ‘The Dawn & Jitters’, disjointed and eerie, which gives the notion of a band with a lot of ability that listening to them wouldn’t immediately suggest but a blueprint of their music would by revealing complexity and intricacy in abundance. And this is exactly the problem with Dallas Orbiter, they are far easier to respect than to enjoy. The album on the whole is overly long and generally unremarkable and by the time it’s finished it’s more of a relief than anything else. -Steven Fanning
If you like the sound of this, then check these out? Mercury Rev
What with that synth-punk thing that seemed like it would never, ever end still hanging around in the recesses of our collective memory, you're probably right to be a little skeptical about any band that pulls in keyboards and big, snarling guitars. It's a response conditioned by several years of increasingly grating and unimaginative dance-punk types. We know how it goes.
Bite down and ignore your instincts when Dallas Orbiter starts playing. If the band's keyboards and huge guitars attack vaguely shoehorns it into the dance-punk dance memories, it's only because you're seeing it in black and white and not with your ears. Instead of glitchy disco-punk or that weird synth-pop thing favored by pop-punk fanatics, Motorcycle Diagrams revs up its engines for nothing short of all-out rock. In Dallas Orbiter's hands, the union of electronics and rock guitars isn't a novel gimmick, but a forgone conclusion we should have all arrived at a long, long time ago.
So just get over the guitars and spacey sounds thing already. Dallas Orbiter's been doing this for years (even if it toiled in all but the most impenetrable obscurity) and knows how to approach its electro-rock hybrid: as songwriters. Again, that's probably a shock after seeing so many of the band's contemporaries rely upon the collision of organic and electronic elements to get them by. The band boasts the sort of well groomed vocals that'll draw the band comparisons to Death Cab, but the indie-pop comparisons end there. Motorcycle Diagrams is in love with the sort of guitars set to rattle the floors and leave your ears ringing. "Ampbuzz is for Lovers" and "The Damocles File" borrow the haze from early Jesus and Mary Chain albums, although the band's crunched-out, muscular guitars hint at '90s Midwestern bands like Honcho Overload and, to a lesser degree, Hum. "Bzzjh" is a full-blown digitized psychedelic freak-out, with manic drums beating away at keyboards screeching a sci-fi horror melody as guitar and bass churn in the song's underbelly. "New Chrome" momentarily sets down the traditional instruments for a bit of indie-tronica, albeit a wild-eyed and dangerous brand of indie-tronica, and "The Dawn and Jitters" goes the same route. Both exclusively electronic tracks aren't nearly as forceful as the act's more varied instrumentation.
Even in 2008, we're very, very slowly closing the gap that separates electronics and traditional bands. That's a heck of a shame for Dallas Orbiter, as Motorcycle Diagrams just might be one of our possible, and far-flung, rock futures. -Matt Schild
There is a strange fusion of electronic fuzz-rock on Motorcycle Diagrams that is timeless and intriguing. One part Modest Mouse and one part Minus the Bear with a dash of psychedelic undertones, the record begins without much fanfare and finally gets good with the fourth track Stabbed By Grace. The group finally gets out of its low-key meanderings and breaks into some melodious songwriting.
Dallas Orbiter has some great songs on this record, and equally terrible ones as well. If you started this record from the fourth track on, you would hear a relaxed blend of sugary electronic pop that sets the mood for a quiet evening at home, of course this does not last long. The group seems to have a noisy side as well that just has to be heard and IS heard a little too much to make this a cohesive effort. On the track Bzzjh, the group jams around in for a couple of minutes and accomplishes nothing except mashing the keys on the organ and breaking up the flow of the previous couple of tracks.
The album then jumps around again, and heads back into a delightful music pattern, which unfortunately includes more noodling on the piano. I am left bewildered and shaking my head, this is something that could have been truly wonderful, but instead is ruined by screwball antics. This record is for you folks who like your pop music strange, and full of musical misbehavior. Otherwise, if you cannot take music that has no real direction this may be one to skip altogether.
RIYL: Beck, Modest Mouse, Alternative Space Rock
Adam J. Pugh
Motorcycle Diagrams (Princess Records, 2008)
Dallas Orbiter is yet another band to join psychedelic rock with pop. What is the difference between this band and the rest, you ask. Well, the difference is that this Minneapolis based group does it damn good. In Motorcycle Diagrams, their third album, they bring amazing ideas and somewhat retro psychedelic rock melodies.
The opening song of Motorcycle Diagrams is "Caspian." This is one of my favorite songs off of the album. It sounds alot like a Vampire Weekend song yet somehow much more subversive and more enjoyable. Less cohesive songs like "Ampbuzz is For Lovers" and "Maybe Soon The Lakeflies" take away from the otherwise good experience that is the album. But, where those fall short songs like "Stabbed By Grace" and "The Damocles File" not only make-up for the weaker efforts but also make this album one to remember. "Stabbed By Grace" shows their lyrical prowess when they belt out saying like "Nobody Honest Can Really Sleep Anymore." "The Damocles File" is by far the most accessible of the set. Containing catchy up-beat melodies it has a certain intangible that makes it easy to enjoy.
Overall Dallas Orbiter made a damn good album. Motorcycle Diagrams surpasses other albums of the genre. At the same time while it is very good it will not bring anything but more cult success to Dallas Orbiter. So for now all this album is, is another cult album that deserves much more attention than it will get.
Is it too late to retroactively bump that B+ to an A-?
The music of Minneapolis quartet Dallas Orbiter contains so many well-known art-rock references--the claustrophobic melodicism of Radiohead, the orchestral, synthesized flourishes of Grandaddy, the schizo-funk of the Talking Heads--that one might think that the group's debut effort, this year's The Motorcycle Diagrams, would have nothing to offer but obtuse self-indulgence. And you would be so, so, so wrong. With lyrics referencing science-fiction and Greek/Roman mythology, Dallas Orbiter create insanely compelling pop music within the parameters of their more idiosyncratic muses. Songs like "Caspian", "The Damocles File" and "Brow of Zeus" are structured like pop songs, and have great melodies, but also contain nods to trip-hop, space-rock and jazz which help give the material a greater dimension that it would have had otherwise. Upon multiple listens, the band's psychedelic world becomes a miracle, despite the band's insistence otherwise. (Is it too late to retroactively bump that B+ to an A-?) -Jonathan Graef
Dallas Orbiter play a 21+ show at the Entry. Doors are at 8 p.m. and tickets cost $6.
Opening are Two Dark Birds and Mike Wisti.
Motorcycle Diagrams (Princess Records, 2008)
Even though eclectic group Dallas Orbiter mainly dabble in otherworldly art-rock territory previously explored by the likes of Radiohead, Talking Heads, and Grandaddy, the Minneapolis-based quintet incorporates stylistic touches from jazz, funk, and trip-hop to create a listening experience that’s both exhilarating and disorienting in a single song.
Like most groups who create music with a tinge of the avant-garde, Dallas Orbiter’s latest album, Motorcycle Diagrams, tries to throw its listeners a few sonic curveballs, most notably on the opening track “Caspian” and instrumental freak-out “Bzzjh”. (Don’t ask me how to pronounce that). From there, Motorcycle Diagrams consists of beautifully hallucinogenic ballads (“Brow Of Zeus”, “The Dawn & Jitters”) and quirky, upbeat rockers (“Ambuzz Is For Lovers”, “The Damocles File”). While the artful detours, like on the haunted-house beginning of “Maybe Soon The Lakeflies”, don’t really lead the listener to newfound paths, Motorcycle Diagrams has enough strong, consistent songwriting overall to make the album a worthwhile ride.
The album begins with “Caspian”, a track which sounds like the mutant sibling of Radiohead’s “Airbag” and one of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s false-start-freak-out-the-listener album openers. “Caspian” has such diverse touches as call-and-response guitar licks, a syncopated bass line, herky-jerky start-stop drumming, and a deliberately over-distorted vocal. The end result of all these techniques is utter confusion, but also curiosity. The rhythm section eventually establishes a groove which sounds like chaos theory come to life, as swells of feedback firmly entrench themselves in the background. It's a little disappointing that “Caspian” sputters to an anti-climatic end, but it doesn't do so before piquing the listener’s intrigue.
Dallas Orbiter then rewards those who are still captivated by launching into the sci-fi camp and dingy garage-rock of “Ampbuzz Is For Lovers”. At first, the track’s dissonant half-steps suggest another space oddity of some kind, but, shortly thereafter, “Ampbuzz” explodes into a raw, grungy guitar riff. The song still retains the edge of “Caspian”, but this time there’s equal amounts of tension and release. The former arrivesin the form of a gnarly keyboard solo and the latter re-establishes itself every time the guitars dig their heels into the song’s refrain. Elsewhere, “The Dawn and Jitters” either coolly invents the space reggae genre, or, more likely, adeptly adapts the funky art-rock chill of TV On The Radio and “Stabbed By Grace” combines a smooth, lounge-like atmosphere (particularly worth pointing out is the sliding bass line) with an uplifting, ethereal chorus.
Those invigorating motifs are what Dallas Orbiter do best, and Motorcycle Diagrams reaches its peak with a song called “The Damocles File”. The waves of keyboard arpeggios should have fans of Grandaddy smiling and nodding while the sharp, staccato rhythms will have everyone else heading straight for the dance floor. Structurally, “File” is standard, verse-chorus-verse pop song for the most part, but Dallas Orbiter’s tight playing still make it thrilling to hear. A couple of brief instrumental breakdown aptly demonstrate the jazz influence which occasionally creeps into the quintet’s music (see also the dub-reggae bass lines that crop up on tracks like “Pigeon”).
Of course, every peak has its valley, and while Dallas Orbiter don’t really lose the momentum gained by “The Damocles File”, they don’t quite keep up with it either. “New Chrome” has a nifty, Devo-esque, nervous twitch to it, but songs can’t sustain themselves on quirk alone. “Hallelujah, The Jetpack Dancer” fairs much better, as it recalls a doo-wop song covered by Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie. Finally, “Meet You” closes Motorcycle Diagrams on an excellently epic note. The song begins with the kind of ambient atmospherics inherent in a Sigur Ros song, but then pivots to extended, heavy, but still experimental, jamming; Stoners should approve highly.
Though Motorcycle Diagrams is neither a musical miracle, nor simply psychedelia, Dallas Orbiter show enough promise to keep curious listeners interested. -Jonathan Graef
AIDING AND ABETTING
Loopy math-ish stuff. Reminds me a lot of Brainiac. I guess that reference may be lost on some of you. Too bad, man. Brainiac was the shit.
What I like is that these guys mix their obvious proficiency and inclination toward analytical sounds with what can only be described as a deranged sensibility. There is no sense to a fair portion of this, except within the minds of the folks propagating it.
And even when Dallas Orbiter retreats into geekland, the songs are engaging. There's always an interesting rhythm somewhere, and the sense of melody here is involved, but rarely convoluted beyond the realm of reality.
Sure, it's a little weird. And it's guaranteed to reduce your chances of romance. Sacrifices must be made if good music is to survive.
Kudos and congrats to Dallas Orbiter on being featured in this week's XM Satellite Radio's Radar Report. You can check it out here.
The Minneapolis-based Dallas Orbiter are another group to have successfully fused space and psychedelic rock with pop music. Now on to their third album, this record of full of fascinating ideas and an abundance of tunes. In fac, the only problem the listeners may have is not having their mind fried by such a vast array of sounds and styles.
Bonkers fairground keyboards provide the backdrop for ‘Ampbuzz Is For Lovers’. It’s one of the less coherent songs but despite that it’s decidedly off-key melody is still a winning one. ‘The Dawn & Jitters’ uses verses that build up like a creepy fairy tale before a dreamlike chorus takes hold. ‘Stabbed By Grace’ starts off elegantly and wistfully like a long-lost effort by The Sea And Cake but by the end it sounds more like a power ballad. It’s probably a compliment to their diversity that the only song which does sound like The Flaming Lips, ‘The Damocles File’, is the most commercially viable moment on ‘Motorcycle Diagrams’. Elsewhere there’s post-punk guitars (’Maybe Soon The Lakeflies’), girlie harmonies (’Brow Of Zeus’), Krautrock instrumentals (’Bzzjh’) and AOR (’Hallelujah, The Jetpack Dandies’). Given their wilfully subversive songwriting, Dallas Orbiter will doubtless remain a cult concern but this is still wonderfully creative music that deserves wider audiences.
The Umbrella Sequence
Minneapolis based space rock band Dallas Orbiter loves to experiment and give the listener a ride of unexpected chord changes and odd harmonies.
Their first self titled album was released in 2002 and the second cd "Magnesium fireflies" hit stores in 2005 which attracted rave reviews in the local press for its atmospheric arrangements.
In between the albums a super limited EP by the title "Dallas Orbiter in a vat of laser" was available for a short time in 2003, the Alternative press described their sound as psych-pop with a sense of 70's prog.
There are moments when I think this band's new album probably would be Serj Tankian's favorite record if he knew about them, this band actually sound a bit like a crazed out version of Slow Motion Reign at times that are signed to Serjical Strike records.
Dont bother trying to figure out how the chorus goes because it might not show up at all, if you listen to it once you will probably hate it but give the album a chance and the songs will grow into Godzilla size after 3 more spins in the stereo.
For fans of Hawkwind, The Mars Volta, Foxy Shazam and Radiohead -Kaj Roth
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-OSHKOSH ADVANCE-TITAN
Missing the scene
Former UW-O students, Minneapolis-based Dallas Orbiter talk transition to big city
by Ryan Rougeux of the Advance-Titan
For most area bands, dreams of one day leaving their Oshkosh basements to sign to a major label and ride waves of stardom from continent to continent dominate. But for the ageing, five-piece rock ensemble, Dallas Orbiter, leaving their Oshkosh basement led to more modest ambitions as the band members are now approaching their mid-30s.
“At this point, it isn’t really about being on American Idol or getting on the Warped Tour,” Mark Miller, guitarist and vocalist for Dallas Orbiter, said.
The band brings a modern fusion of acid and glam rock that is filled out by a wall of guitar effects and layers of synthesizer.
“There is some 70’s stuff like Bowie and T. Rex, that kind of thing,” said Miller.
Local artist, Jeremiah Nelson, has played with the band on a few occasions. Although Nelson traditionally plays a more stripped down show than Dallas Orbiter, he likes performing with the band.
“They have a lot of well-written rock songs with lots of quarks and a psychedelic flair to it,” said Nelson. “It is all drilled into your face with a bunch of crazy effects. Tons of effects and lots of swirly guitars.”
For Dallas Orbiter, the venue largely dictates how the band will execute its performance.
“When we do shows at smaller clubs we’ll play more covers, or if the PA stinks. We know if we play too loud, we’ll just piss people off,” drummer Greg Flanagan said. “Our live shows are a bit louder than the albums would imply.”
The members of Dallas Orbiter attended classes at UW-Oshkosh in the late 90s and now reside in Minneapolis where they continue to make music out of a basement, playing as many shows as the weekend allows.
“We are all too old to hop in a van and go on tour, and too young to give it up,” Flanagan said. “I realistically don’t think that we could go on tour for more than a week and it is hard to make enough money to even sustain a tour.”
Unlike Oshkosh, the Minneapolis music scene offers an extensive variety of clubs and venues for bands to play. But with such a large population, Dallas Orbiter finds it difficult to stand out in such an overwhelmingly large pool of artists.
“In Oshkosh, people go out and if it is their friend’s band, they’re excited to be there and they make it a fun show,” said Flanagan. “In Minneapolis, there is a great musician community, but all the musicians are playing out in one of the 50 places to play at, so it is a little harder to get a lot of people to come out to a show.”
The band also finds that Minneapolis residents are harder to impress.
“I think part of it is that the twin cities are so big and have so many bands that people get option paralysis. They don’t know what shows to go to, and if they do go, they just stand around like they are waiting to be impressed,” Flanagan said.
Since the members of Dallas Orbiter took up residence in Minneapolis, several of the Oshkosh venues that they frequented have stopped bringing in bands or have shut down completely.
“When I was there, Barney’s was the big place to play. It was across from North Scott Hall. Now I think there is a Jimmy John’s there,” Flanagan said.
Although the musical landscape for Oshkosh has narrowed, Miller does not attribute the blame to a lack of good musicians.
“There are still a lot of really good bands in Oshkosh,” Miller said. “I don’t think it has anything to do with the bands, I think it is just business.”
Although the band has no immediate plans to make a jump at anything larger, Dallas Orbiter plans to release albums and enjoy the comfort of being a mostly studio band.
The third full-length from this Minneapolis quartet continues along in the same acid-fried indie-rock tradition as 2005's Magnesium Fireflies. This time out they fly even further into the outer reaches of the cosmos, with an almost overwhelming amount of ideas being poured into every song. These guys rarely sit still and let the listener get into a comfortable groove with their music. Instead, their song structures seem to always be changing and taking left turns away from anything that sounds familiar and expected. Moving past the annoyingly spazzy opener "Caspian", things pick up quickly with "Ampbuzz is For Lovers", which nicely recalls the hallucinatory lyrical visions and guitar noise of early-1990's Flaming Lips. Elsewhere, the band includes some electronic production touches on "The Dawn & Jitters" and the proggy "Maybe Soon The Lakeflies", which explains why each band member is credited with playing the "computer". By the 2/3 mark of Motorcycle Diagrams my brain feels as though it's reached the saturation point and can't absorb any more, not because the quality dips but because there's just simply too much dense musical information in songs like "Pidgeon" (whose back-half sounds like the last three Beck albums being played simultaneously) and the new-millenium Devo of "New Chrome" to process without feeling slightly drained afterwards. A very good album for sure...just one better heard in bits and pieces rather than start to finish. -DAVID MANSDORF
From the outset of "Caspian," the opening track on Dallas Orbiter's sophomore effort, this album fairly gleams. The band has been (and will likely continue to be) compared to space rock in the Bowie vein. That's a fair assessment, but they're far less theatrical and light years from being a facsimile (no pun intended). The sci-fi references pop up here and there ("Hallelujah, the Jetpack Dandies," sounds like a long lost track from Bowie's Aladdin Sane), but often the lyrics seem rooted more in Greek mythology than anything else ("Brow of Zeus," "The Damocles File"), and there is more than a smidgeon of Pink Floyd-esque spaced-out weirdness present throughout, owing to the copious use of a Farfisa organ.
I don't mean to describe an album that would appeal only to the hardest-core vinyl nerds and career potheads. To the contrary, Motorcycle Diagrams is immensely listenable and more than a little glossy—but that gloss is nicked and pockmarked enough to keep the listener engaged through to the denouement. Each song has its own unique richness and texture, from the Queens of the Stone Age-tinged "Ampbuzz Is for Lovers" to the haunting, electronica-bruised, quasi-murder ballad "The Dawn & Jitters." "The Damocles File," in particular, seems ripe for radio play, though the album as a whole is bursting at its edges with some of the catchiest hooks I have come across in a long while. We're only a few weeks into '08, but this is already a contender for one of the year's best local albums.
Headliners Dallas Orbiter are one of my favorite new bands of late. Their new album, Motorcycle Diagrams, will be in heavy rotation in my car’s CD player for quite some time—I can’t stop listening to it. I think part of the reason lies in the fact that they don’t stick hard and fast to any one genre.
On this night, the band was space rock-ish, but pretty funky (and lead singer Mark Miller writes killer—and I mean killer—hooks). The songs were all at their core, pop songs, but they had been tweaked, prodded and had additions built onto them, giving each song its own rich texture and undeniable magnetism. They played a few songs from their 2004 debut, Magnesium Fireflies, as well, and while those songs were enjoyable, they didn’t entrance me like the songs from Diagrams, did.
The instrumentation was interesting to say the least. It included an organ, a synthesizer and the usual guitar, bass, drums, etc. but the whole was more than the sum of its parts. Everything was used in near-perfect fashion, from the weirdo, almost timeless looking film that played on the screen behind them—Magritte and Dali paintings come to life and invading that old MTV show "Liquid Television"—to the instruments themselves. There were big organ flourishes here and there and the occasional random guitar struck in the middle of everything, but nothing came off as showy or forced, it just seemed like exactly the right the thing at exactly the right time, much like Dallas Orbiter themselves could be in the coming months. - Pat O'Brien
Dallas Orbiter's space rock simply out of this world
Here we are, just a few days into 2008, and I've already found a serious contender for my year-end list that will run in this space about a dozen months from now.
Local space rockers Dallas Orbiter have issued their second proper album, "Motorcycle Diagrams," and it's a must-have for fans of psychedelic pop songs and squealing, noisy guitars. The band debuts it to the public tonight with a CD-release gig at the Varsity. Ouija Radio, the Chambermaids and Daughters of the Sun open.
The five guys in Dallas Orbiter are clearly record collectors, as they dig much deeper for inspiration than the last Flaming Lips album. They recall various acts and eras with obvious affection and fill the disc with sly nods to everyone from Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd ("Pigeon") to pianist and David Bowie collaborator Mike Garson ("The Damocles Files," the most immediately likable track on the album) to over-the-top British trio Muse ("Ampbuzz Is for Lovers"). But they rarely sound derivative, which again is a feat when so many similar acts are content to merely replicate what worked in the past. - ROSS RAIHALA
Dallas Orbiter runs circles around the Varsity on Friday to celebrate the nifty new Motorcycle Diagrams.
Local quintet Dallas Orbiter has always aimed for the happy medium between off-kilter but well-crafted popin the vein of Guided By Voices or The Flaming Lips and a more spaced-out, purely psychedelic vibe influenced by post-rock and 1970s prog rock. It's hit that sweet spot more squarely than ever on the new Motorcycle Diagrams, which features lush, floating ballads like "Brow of Zeus" that rival anything done by the neo-psychedelia wing of the Elephant 6 collective. Like 2005's excellent Magnesium Fireflies, the new disc was self-produced. Opening: Ouija Radio, The Chambermaids, Daughters of the Sun. Varsity Theater, 8pm, 18+
A band that continues to fly under the radar locally -- and still sounds like it's sampling a radar -- space-rock quintet Dallas Orbiter hosts another release party tonight at the Varsity Theater for its third full-length recording, "Motorcycle Diagrams." The disc offers a fascinating sonic mishmash of electro-whirry Radiohead and Daft Punk meshed with classic Pink Floydian psychedelica. But it's hard for me to get into songs with lines like, "I descended fully formed from the Twilight Zone" (from "Brow of Zeus"). Tonight's party also features Ouija Radio and the Chambermaids (9 p.m., $5). -Chris Riemenschneider
Dallas Orbiter CD-Release show
If music could shimmer, Dallas Orbiter's surely would. They take Aladdin Sane-era Bowie glam and tweak it a little (though they don't wear the skintight bodysuits, for better or worse), and mix in a healthy dose of Detroit garage rock. It's definitely dolled-up, but it doesn't seem like an affectation nor does it seem that the band is putting on airs. They temper their act with enough Queens of the Stone Age-esque swagger that would-be detractors have to dig pretty deep to take issue with much of it. The band is well-served by the workhorse quality present on their latest, Motorcycle Diagrams. Without coming across as too playful or wacky, the disc delivers just the right amount of fun. Openers Ouija Radio have a sound reminiscent of Missing Persons on amphetamines and are just as fun to watch, as their shows often end in hedonistic debauchery. Led by singer/badass Christy Hunt, Ouija Radio should be on everyone's short list for breakout artists in '08.With the Chambermaids and Daughters of the Sun.18+. $5. 9:00 p.m. 1308 Fourth St. SE, Minneapolis; 612.604.0222. —Pat O'Brien
The songs of the Minneapolis based band, Dallas Orbiter, are made up of imaginative, sonic arrangements. The band's third full-legth cd, "Motorcycle Diagrams" was just released, and is a reflection of many elements of the band's experiences.
You can check out the video of Dallas Orbiter on Showcase Minnesota here.
Dallas Orbiter, the unabashedly geeky 5 piece Twin Cities space-rock band, put on a solid show to about a 60 percent full music room. Lead singer Mark Miller had this professorial Mork and Mindy era Robin Williams look going for him tonight in a blue and red striped shirt and spectacles hanging on the end of his nose---not your normal rock star getup to say the least. (The horizontal stripes got me thinking think this band might have oddly fit in at a band shell in “The Village” if the surreal British TV series The Prisoner had been filmed last year instead of the late sixties.) Dallas Orbiter played many songs from their new CD Magnesium Fireflies (Princess Records, November, 2004) and even a damn fine cover of “Palmcorder Yajna” by The Mountain Goats (You know the song, the one about the vedic ritual of self-sacrifice from “We Shall All Be Healed” with the twisted repeating line “And the headstones climbed up the hills.”) Miller has the perfectly thin and intense voice necessary to pull this song off well, though a friend also noted their version sounded a little like Roxy Music. Something weird about the mix made it almost un-listenable without earplugs (it sounded just fine with them in) that might have explained why many people moved to the bar-side of the club during the DO set. The set took a bit of a downward slide during its final third—the energy drifted a bit with a slow ballad (it might have the shimmering and slow “Akron”) and another song I did not recognize—but they pulled it out in the end with the spooky and grooving “Bed of Stars,” the opening track off the new CD, with its half step rising and falling chord progressions. -David de Young
splendid > reviews >
The great thing about Dallas Orbiter is that they employ most of the good (and avoid many of the not-so-good) musical clichés that a word like "orbiter" suggests. Sure, they're a space/progressive rock band with a fondness for all things psychedelic and scientific, but they don't really flaunt it (too much). Magnesium Fireflies doesn't revolve around long, arduous jam sessions and overly affected electronic beats. The guitars still ring clear over the Rhodes and the synthesizer. Every element has a purpose and nothing is overdone. The album mixes charismatic pop with more experimental fusions, striking a balance between the sublime and the surreal. Both are equally engaging. Seconds into the album's title track, you'll stop trying to remember whether the Periodic Table abbreviation for magnesium is Mg or Mn. The song will whisk you away on a catchy pop hook that could have come straight from Stephen Malkmus's garage -- and then it spontaneously combusts in a sonic wave of electronic chaos. "So Pretty" is a somber lullaby, presumably directed toward an ex-lover. Lead singer Mark Miller delivers its grievances with beautifully aching vocals. "I don't know what I keep trying to say / But I'll endeavor to be brave / 'Cause you're so pretty when you're digging my grave," he sings, recalling Thom Yorke's unpolished grace. Dallas Orbiter's understanding of moderation is what makes Magnesium Fireflies an above-average recording. The instruments are used judiciously, and never in excess. The band's ability to alter their arrangements on the fly without losing cohesion keeps the album from falling into the muzak realm that traps so many like-minded groups. "73rd and Something" meanders around a jazzy riff, eventually warping off into a psychedelic mini jam, then returns to its original structure. Bass heavy vibrations, howling siren noises and, yes, a bowed saw add to the variety. "Shoot The Lights Out" abounds with Eno-esque ambiance, while closer "The Kids" is the album's sole concession to arduous, extended jamming. Well, actually, it's not -- not quite. At just over 12 minutes, its length hardly makes it a chore. There's no headache involved with this slow burner: hushed vocals weave in and out of the sparseness, holding your attention while easing you out of the album's headspace. It's a subtly effective end to a pleasing, if not outstanding, listening experience. As opener "Bed of Stars" goes, "You could have been Princess Grace on a bed of stars / Now you're only lost in space." You can get lost in Magnesium Fireflies -- but if you listen carefully, it will never be lost on you.-- Lisa Green
Dallas Orbiter (who hail from nowhere near Dallas; Minneapolis in fact) display quite a penchant for swirling psychedelics and memorable melodies on their second release "Magnesium Fireflies." The best track here is the opener, "Bed Of Stars", a weedy mini-symphony of sorts, with an elastic Stone Roses bass groove, guitars fed through wah-wah pedals, Mark Miller's relaxed-yet confident voice
(think Elliot Smith mixed with Ian Brown), and twinkling keyboards that actually do somehow sound like a bed of stars. It's a shining example of how Dallas Orbiter get the most out of their recording studio and the array of instruments in their collection (In addition to the "regular" instruments, bowed saws, lap steel, flute recorder, programmers and farfisa are all used at different point throughout this eight song mini-album).
Elsewhere things rock a little harder on "Arise" and "Molecules Kissing" which sound like something that would have fit nicely on The Flaming Lips' "Transmissions From The Satellite Heart." The band slows things down for "So Pretty" and "Akron" both of which are more than a little influenced by Radiohead's interstellar melancholy, and we're all better off for it. The album closes with "The Kids," which clocks in at just under 13 minutes and allows the band to indulge in their more experimental side, without sounding like art-school wankers.
It took a few listens before this album fully clicked, but once it did it pulled me in like The Millennium Falcon going into the Death Star. Where they go from here is anyone's guess, but it should be quite a trip. David Mansdorf
An indie-pop record that is at turns accessible and challenging, succeeding at almost every turn with creative and memorable music that both relies upon and subverts formulas in a winning fashion. The Orbiter is capable of ‘60s-kissed pop-rock numbers that exude the skill and pep of bands like The Minders and Apples In Stereo, while not being as retro or cutesy, respectively, as those bands can be. On the pure pop front, the song "Arise" (as in "arise/magnesium firefly") is driven by a rousing chorus. There's nothing complex about it, it just swoops in and takes you for blissful three minute ride. On "Molecules Kissing", the band mixes an aggressive melody and guitars with Beach Boys/Pilot-like harmonies and spacey keyboards and effects in the vein of Flaming Lips and Granddaddy. As the album progresses, it ventures into interesting areas. "73rd and Something" shows off some art-rock moves, as the band plays with jazz fusion precision, using a funky time signature. This song moves in a few directions before ending with a repeated refrain for the last three minutes or so of the track. Cool. There are some purely atmospheric numbers and the closer, "The Kids", is a twelve-minute journey that slowly unwinds and shows the band's mastery of mood and arrangement. As you can tell, it's hard to encapsulate this band very easily. This is an excellent record from five guys who don't give a shit about trends and have a lot to say musically. princessrecords.com
Dallas Orbiter provides an astounding blend of indie and space rock, an amalgamation that the Minneapolis-based outfit may not have originated but has surely helped shape via its music, especially that heard on the recent eight-song Magnesium Fireflies. The album, which opens with a transcendental tune titled “Bed Of Stars” (which has a feel not entirely dissimilar to Frank Zappa’s “My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama” but with a bounce) and closes with the epic, gorgeous plod “The Kids,” is the product of both hard labor and happy accidents, the pain and suffering of at least one broken marriage and the joys of shared musical loves as well as long-lasting friendships. If that’s beginning to sound more like the makings of an epic novel rather than a gorgeous and (forty-minute) epic album, perhaps it’s time to step back and realize that Dallas Orbiter is ultimately comprised of five guys originally from all parts of Wisconsin who have day jobs and are more likely to pour money into their shared recording studio than they are to come and play a show in your basement for gas money for Dallas Orbiter is more of a “primary hobby” than a “primary job.”
Some of that might make the Orbiters - Greg Flanagan, Eric Lodahl, Dan Gahres, Mark Miller and Jon Schmig - seem reclusive, standoffish or the poster boys for prog rock stardom but the five hardly seem either of the former and have too many contemporary and (perhaps) commercial sensibilities (they also don’t eschew Flaming Lips just for having sold a few records and having appeared on TV) to be the latter.
This is a band with some songs that run more than ten minutes and use some studio wizardry to achieve the desired sonic effect. And not that long ago, the quintet constructed a piece of music that followed the storyline of Donald Bartheleme’s short story “Game.”
These are five guys who’ve been friends for a decade and are just as willing to laugh at themselves as anything. And they share in the work that makes Dallas Orbiter’s music happen. Sometimes they don’t even work at all. Take, for instance, the track “73rd and Something” from Magnesium. Gahres says that he was committed to making the track aurally exciting - enough so that he refrained from playing his main instrument (bass) on the track, setting it aside for more unusual, uh, tools. -Jedd Beaudoin
Got 40 minutes or so to slap your headphones on and stare at the ceiling? Good, Dallas Orbiter is ready to hang out and give you something to do nothing to. These Minneapolis boys play an experimental brand of pop that goes down easy. The titular chorus from "Arise" is swooping, and its wall-of-sound throws enough at you to pin you down and make you catch your breath when it's all over. "Shoot the Lights Out" has sweet harmonies to finish off the skittering percussion and comes to a close before it drags on too long. More often than not, the band pushes their experimental musical ideas without getting lost. "73rd and Something" could have used some tightening -- a wiser choice would have been less wailing guitar and something else in the rhythm to anchor it down. Vocalist Mark Miller's delivery has a warble that doesn't always fit the music, and I can't help wonder if a bit more force would service the songs better. The 12+ minutes of "The Kids" loses some cohesiveness midway, but that's probably to be expected with such material. I can't be sure if its second half is simply a hidden track (with only a two-second pause between them), but I guess that's nature of extended jams: You can't tell what the heck is going on when the groove kicks into another gear. Boon Sheridan
Attn rockgeeks: this, Dallas Orbiter's self-titled album, is a killer for yer eyes, a killer for yer ears. First, dig the details of the packaging and note the attendant clues as to what this band's all about:
· Swank floppy-disc style packaging, as recently seen on releases from The Platonics and Enon. Evokes a bizarre nostalgia for the not-so-distant techno-past-an eye on yestershit with guitars tuned to the everlasting pop present.
· Super limited, individually hand-numbered copies in an edition of 300. CD-R celebrates inclusiveness, while the #'d deal slyly celebrates exclusiveness: A band that can appeal to the voxpop, yet still has lotsa buried goodies for the connoisseur. Instant collectors' item, scumbag!
· Visually pleasing enhanced CD containing music, footage of Grand Central, animation. Sharp, mildly triptastic, tech-savvy.
And? Clearly these guys know how to excite aesthetically and ideologically, how to get them eyebrows up even before the CD's in the stereo. Now the music:
Much like the packaging, the same knowing reverence for musics past, musics future, and boys-n-girls who can dig 'em both is at play. Dallas Orbiter has done its homework and draws from all over the rockmap, pickin', choosin', and synthesizin' to create this resultant slab of psych-pop/rock genius. Melodic and druggily chug-chugging, "Regards" is a tremendous opener that trumpets Dallas Orbiter's range from the get-go. The song leaps joyously from stylistic point 'A' to illogical stylistic point 'B' at will, from a noisier take on the patented AmAnSet narco-beat to a loopier Rollerskate Skinny-style chorus. The relatively sleepy lull that follows-the inconsequential "Glass Phantom" and dreamy "Hwy Sibilance"-lends the band's return to all-out guitar blat more power, as "Microscopic Man" and "Chandeliers, Scientists" sit on the sludgier, noisier side of the guitar-psych fence, recalling the more interesting moments of-don't laugh-latter day Tripping Daisy.
Feedback and distortion charge many of these tunes, but tagging Dallas Orbiter as A Guitar Band isn't necessarily fair. Instrumentally, there's a lot pouring out of the speakers-flute, keyboard crunch, percussive thock and tinkle, and theremin mix things up, and the group's always ready to throw a melodic, harmonic, or stylistic curveball. "On the Other Side (It's Cooler)" brings an unexpected though not unwelcome Beach Boys element to the album with its vocal harmonies and lyrical use of old Brian Wilson standbys "baby" and "sleep/dream." In these two minutes, Dallas Orbiter runs laps around what the High Llamas have been trying to pull off for over a decade. That astounding ease with influences and subsequent ability to transform them into something uniquely interesting oozes from every song here-beautiful.
So: Music for geeks... by geeks? Dunno for sure; no info-packed pics in the liners, but we'll let that one slip, because either way the boys in Dallas Orbiter are a buncha deft cookies who have gone far above and beyond the normal call of psychrock duty with this one. Applause, all around. jim laakso
(CD, Princess, Progressive pop)
Soft reflective pop interspersed with lengthy jazzy instrumental passages. This Minneapolis-based quintet is providing unusual content with their music. Instead of utilizing traditional pop formulas or recognizable chord progressions, these fellows allow spontaneity to trip into their tunes...often allowing them to go off on some rather remarkable tangents. The overall sound is something like combining progressive rock from the 1970s with underground pop of the 1990s. Magnesium Fireflies, while unpredictable and peculiar, is a strangely calming album. This band really flexes their muscles here, displaying an amazing range of styles and influences. The only problem they may face is that...their music is probably too complex for most listeners. But our guess it that these gents are in it for bucks or success anyway. Their music is inherently genuine and driven by artistic integrity. Cool tracks include "Bed of Stars," "So Pretty," and "Shoot the Lights Out." (Rating: 5)
THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH
Your Gateway to Music and More from a Christian Perspective
Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready..
Yes, you've been here before, haven't you?
This is so clichéd, but it must be said – this is original and unique music and something that you definitely have not heard before – except perhaps in your own private dreams.
Let's see, there are bits and pieces of what you perhaps have heard before – the influences run deep and wide. Vocals are at once Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins, then Neil Young, with a touch of Thom Yorke of Radiohead. The dreamy mixture of tones in Magnesium Fireflies comes from Yes, Pink Floyd, Flaming Lips, Mars Volta, that garage band down the street from you, King Crimson, CSNY, BT, Moby, etc. But you've never heard these mixed into a coherent soup of sound that seems at times to be a little audible Deja Vu – weirdly strange and familiar at the same time.
There is absolutely nothing to be bored with on this offering from Minnesota based Dallas Orbiter, their third commercially available release. How one band manages to combine Trevor Rabin-proud rising guitar solos, electronica blippy synths, trippy Pink Floyd Rhodes electric piano, lo-fi garage band drums, bowed saw (yes, like the kind you can cut a tree with), lap steel guitar, old-school farfisa organ, flute into a coherent and approachable soundscape is a little hard to imagine and describe. Dallas Orbiter pulls this off, somehow – and you most likely haven't even heard of them before.
There are only eight official tracks on the CD, and even though this is a bit grandiose to state, this disc is not unlike the Pet Sounds and Smile offerings from The Beach Boys and Brian Wilson, in that each song contains sonic vignettes that take you sometimes into some tripped-out places, all while sounding pretty and other worldly at the same time; like your familiar lucid dreams. You know they are not for real, but that doesn't make them any less enjoyable or deniable that they are part of you.
This isn't to say that all is happy-go-lucky with the Orbiter. Some of the lyrics are quite dark 'You look so pretty when you're digging my grave' for example. Then later there is a repeated interlocked pairing of 'synapses are just molecules kissing / I want to touch your pretty little brain'. Undeniably intimate. The liner notes by Stephen McCabe describe Dallas Orbiter in a stream of scary mechanical insects. Shameful, really. What presents itself is a much more human effort.
With only eight tracks, it might seem like each song might grow a little long in the tooth. However, with the variety and tasty sonic nuggets around each corner, only once in the entire disc is there a point where you might wish the Orbiter had pressed the stop button on their ProTools rig and called it a track. This occurs at the end of '73rd and Something'; well near the end – it's at 3:50 into this track, which goes on for another two and a half minutes or so, where the same phrase is repeated over and over. It's in this track also, where the only profanity on the CD occurs. (which will bring down a ding in the final # of tocks rating) Yet in this track there is also one of the most majestic guitar hooks on the CD – sounds straight out of something that Steely Dan's Dean Parks would toss in on the end of a phrase – then couples in with a double harmony line that seems like Steve Howe and Trevor Rabin from Yes got called into the sessions. That's all in just one track. Long live independent music.
The aforementioned bowed saw seems to be featured in the initial track, "Bed of Stars." A band that wanted to first draw in a broad range of listeners would never pop such a sonic surprise on the listener in an opening track, but this is no average band, and the sound compliments the filter-happy bass line that percolates throughout this track. There it is, and yes, it works. Then again, it could be a wild vibrato synth line – it's hard to tell.
"Arise" contains likely the most radio friendly and terribly unforgettable lyrics of the CD – '"Arise Magnesium Fireflies." Hear this track once, and you will be singing it to yourself, guaranteed. Here singer Mark Miller sounds most like Neil Young doing "Keep on Rockin in America." The drums sound like a poorly recorded kit from the next room, but that lo-fi nature completely fits this nearly guitars and drums-only track. But those synths creep in with a hint here and there even on this rocker until finally you can hear the fireflies buzz around between the speakers (and your ears if your sporting headphones). The Magnesium Fireflies have arisen and overtaken the sound.
"Shoot the Lights Out" sounds most like Dallas O have put on their electronica suit – but with plenty of live drums and guitars and a jazzy chord progression. Filtered synths burble in the background, leading to the short-lived delicious harmonies of the chorus hearken to more of a Queen symphonic number.
The last track, "The Kids," lasts a full twelve minutes and some change. It actually could be considered to have three movements – each with their own character. Movement one lasts several minutes and intersperses jangly guitars with a nice '70's trippy electric piano. It lasts for 3:45 before some vocal harmonies come in a layer to usher in another majestic guitar solo and then movement two, which starts around 4:30. Very dark lyrics here, be forewarned. Movement two continues the melodic and chord structure of movement one, but replacing instrumentals with vocals. Movement three begins at about 6:20 and centers on a stupefyingly simple bass theme which repeats every five seconds or so, while buzzes and chirps, drum machine beats and that ever present electric piano take you back to your memories of falling asleep while riding in the back of your parents station wagon watching the stars above and the reflected lights of passing vehicles curve around the surfaces above you.
Yes you have been before, haven't you? Scott Lake
Sunday, 14 August 2005
“You could have been Princess Grace on a bed of stars, now you’re only lost in space…”
Ok kids, time for some space rock. But I promise that you’re not being lead into a vacuous, vocal-devoid expanse of jazz-inspired weirdness that you’ve probably experienced once or twice before. Dallas Orbiter definitely uses these elements in their music, but also maintains a structure where guitars and vocals can co-exist within a more experimental, electronically generated landscape.
The band’s CD “Magnesium Fireflies” is a listening experience, and it seems that much of the effort put into writing and arrangements was executed to make the sum of all parts merge to establish a mood and a narrative by working together to create varying levels of intensity interleaved with multiple layers of sonic integrity – at least that’s how my ear perceives it.
Magnesium Fireflies is the third release the band has put out since its inception in 2000 and once you listen to it, you’ll be amazed at how the band fuses some discernible outside influences and conventional and obscure instrumentation and manages to deliver some very enjoyable and lucid music.
July 13, 2005
Rarely has an EP left me so unsure if I've heard a hugely promising debut or just an incredibly well produced imitation of one. Dallas Orbiter's "low gravity noise pop" (their words, not mine) continually flops between upbeat, intense indie pop and irritating, effects-laden space rock. Magnesium Fireflies starts with the bass-heavy "Bed of Stars," bursting open like Monkeyhouse-era Dandy Warhols on a Spacemen 3 binge. "Arise" takes a slight psych-pop detour, but after its rare chorus hook, the album hardly ever finds its way back again. They hit another short-lived stride once they get past the disappointing "So Pretty," but then quickly turn geek-rock on "Molecules Kissing." While most of the EP shies away from sounding like an intergalactic 12 Rods, far too much still feels overproduced and underwritten, leaving us both mildly impressed and terribly frustrated. Scott Reid
(3 out of 5)
Many bands dress up their music with extras. In other words, the basic guitar, drum and bass outfit, tempted by the convenience of digital recording, succumbs to every whim brought on by the virtual studio. Often, this “fleshing out” can be overbearing and tiresome to the listener but sometimes, it just works. Dallas Orbiter incorporates a plethora of “extras” on its latest, Magnesium Fireflies, and ends up with a multifaceted album that works more often than not.
Despite their all inclusive nature, openers, “Bed of Stars” and “Arise,” a couple of over-the-top pop songs, seem to be a bad choice as they are the album’s only shortcomings. The breathy and overly emotive vocals in “Bed of Stars” doesn’t work with the thick groove the gooey synths and broad bass generates. “Arise” is doomed from the get-go by its generic pop coating and can’t be saved by the busy undercurrent of bubbling electronics and elaborate studio tricks.
Then blithe turns to bleak and for the next six songs, Dallas Orbiter spend their time making up for the forgettable openers. The more mature sounding, “So Pretty” and “Akron” reveal Mark Miller’s true vocal capabilities. His voice becomes more relaxed, weaving a nice blend of Thom Yorke and Ben Gibbard into the band’s own brand of electro-psych guitar pop.
Even further from the sour mark made by the openers are “73rd and Something” and “Molecules Kissing.” Their oddly timed pulses, snaking bass lines, eerily bowed saw and wah-heavy guitar solos put them up there with today’s best King Crimson savants. Bassist Dan Gahres and drummer Greg Flanagan seem to actually use their brains, relying less on convention and more upon instinct. Guitarist Dan Lodahl starts exploring and Jon Schmig’s electronic arrangements sound purposeful and well-intended, not just filler.
What’s most intriguing about Dallas Orbiter is that its music goes far beyond your basic guitar, bass and drums. Putting the lap steel, farfisa, recorder and Rhodes piano to good use further validates their abilities as musicians and not just techno-wizards. Magnesium Fireflies, while far from perfect, proves Dallas Orbiter has the balls to take chances and the ability to make them work. -Michael LeRay
LOST AT SEA
Magnesium Fireflies weighs in with a mere 8 songs, which apparently precludes it from official "album" status. But at the same time I would doubt that 8 songs qualifies it for the status of an EP. Regardless, it's track listing landed it in the mailer stuffed with short players to be reviewed for my seminal column, EPmd, which is the final chance for any CD or vinyl single or EP to see a review before being permanently dispatched. Given the caliber of this release, I felt it was my civic duty to give it a proper write up so that you, dear reader, might be better informed to make your own decision as to whether or not it is an album.
Dallas Orbiter play extremely tuneful, clever pop songs that are only really in danger of criticism through their striking similarity to the Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev. Although lyrics like "arise, magnesium fireflies" and "synapses are just molecules kissing" certainly sound like they could have been swiped from the Wayne Coyne songbook, it would be unfair to dismiss the band as pale imitators, and they do jump off on some more pure-psych directions over the course of Magnesium Fireflies. The weirder instrumental excursions are more distinctive but are also the slightly less successful; but if the band can combine those two strengths they could move toward the lofty heights of the groups with which they are surely sick of being compared. - Erick Bieritz
Dallas Orbiter • Magnesium Fireflies • Princess Records •
This band out of Minneapolis manages to walk the line between creative indie pop rock and an otherworldly sound that features enough programmed noise to make your brain overload - though with ease. The entire disc has its own uniqueness to it, a complete flow through poetically melodic vocals and psychedelic musical moments that are accentuated by a number of instruments. Though the five members hold their own while using the basics of the drums, bass and acoustic guitars, the way each is featured in the forefront is a credit to the diversity on this album. Using a bowed saw, lap steel, farfisa, filters, Rhoads piano and synths, extra details are added during lines like "you look so pretty, when you're digging my grave." Standout tracks include "Bed Of Stars," "73rd and Something" and "Akron." -J.C. Carnahan
As a rule, “jam” bands don’t count for much (for me), in that usually the players involved, however cohesive, inevitably indulge in melodious meanderings that appeal more to the blissed-out shoeless and shampoo-less set and less to the listener who wants some method to the madness.
Dallas Orbiter – from Minneapolis (lots of hippies in Minneapolis) – while certainly not immune from taking tokes off the same bowl as, say, Phish or the Dead, are equally at ease popping mushroom caps with the likes of Wayne Coyne and the Lips, dropping E with electronica-era Radiohead, or sipping cocktails with Death Cab for Cutie. Which is to say that there’s quite an eclectic mix going on here, and while mixing your dope is unadvisable in the real world, here in the land of Magnesium Fireflies, it’s quite a treat. Sprinkle in some trip-hop beats and solid indie-rock sensibilities, and there’s a real psychedelia going on, and the only real bummer is when the trip ends. Man, I always hate coming down… - James Reader
A candy-coated treat of psychedelia, ‘70s glam pop, ‘80s retro, ‘90s alternative and British rock all mixed into one, Magnesium Fireflies is a breathtaking record, genuinely appealing to the senses. Dallas Orbiter, an electro-rock band from Minneapolis seems to find abnormal amounts of creative power, finding the means to write and perform songs that transcend most music today that claims commercial radio airplay.
Yet with all this praise, the music seeks to lack coherency and structure throughout the record, which may mean their artwork only merits college radio airplay. The songs do not fit the traditional framework of composition, and although the instrumentation is pretty, subtle, stunning and hauntingly rich at times, there are many instances that too much noise and flavors are present, and really not working in the overall grand scheme of themes. Still, that is surely Dallas Orbiter’s intent, and with deeper listening and introspection, they are confident their music has already reached a devoted following as they continue to tour. The songs are full of life, awkward melodies, dissonant and strange instrumentation, that in the end, being unique and original in successful fashion is what this group is. Magnesium Fireflies is a journey of high-octane fueled psychedelia, and one listener must be fully ready to appreciate and intake its magic. – Shawn M. Haney
Go looking for any given musical influence on Magnesium Fireflies and you're likely to find it. Dallas Orbiter (as it happens, their preferred orbit is Minneapolis, over one thousand miles to the north) blend vocal harmonies and guitar-based pop and expand the resulting sound infinitely outward with electronic effects. What comes out of the stereo speakers is an intimately grand distillation of recent music history: Sixties radio pop, seventies psychedelica, eighties jazz fusion, nineties indie rock and present-day Britpop.
Where electronica is concerned, bands have a tendency to to be gratuitous before they are judicious. Dallas Orbiter's songs do incorporate quite a bit - the eighth and final track, "The Kids," is a nearly thirteen-minute ambient outro (with a verse-chorus format buried in the middle) that makes use of everything in the band's home studio - but never seems ungainly or over-tinkered the way, say, The Cardigans' Gran Turismo or Swell's Everybody Wants to Know at times can barely support themselves under the weight of ProTools noodling.
Direct comparisons to Seattle's Voyager One wouldn't be entirely out of place, not least because both bands seem to find a welcome metaphor in outer space and their desired sound. But Dallas Orbiter - at least on this disc, technically their second full-length - are distinct from V1 in that there are noticeable interstices between the Minneapolis outfit's manifold instrumental layers. V1 has often tended to go for a thick, enveloping fog of noise pop.
Though it has few outright faults (aside, that is, from the purple nonsense of Stephen McCabe's commendatory liner notes), Magnesium Fireflies is not exactly remarkable; it is poetic, intelligent and self-assured, and above all, enjoyable. It leaves one confident that this band has a truly groundbreaking album in them somewhere. – Eric J. Iannelli
AIDING AND ABETTING
There's something about Minnesota that seems to inspire kids to play uptempo, off-kilter music. Think about it; even the most famous musical denizens of the Twin Cities are considered weird, if not demented. And hell, anyone who would call an album "Magnesium Fireflies" can't be all well.
That's cool with me. Dallas Orbiter does depart a bit from the formula I described above. While the songs here are decidedly off-kilter--trending somewhere between straight up psychedelia and simple dementia--the boys aren't afraid to be contemplative when necessary. Always, though, with an attendant boot to the head.
These boys aren't weird for the sake of being weird, though. There's a method to the lunacy. The songs make more sense than the sounds that make them up, if that makes any sense at all. Sometimes it helps to be able to assemble a song after it has passed, but hey, isn't that exactly the sort of band music critics love?
Of course. Dallas Orbiter doesn't make things easy for its listeners. But it does reward the adventurous with a journey that is well worth the fare, one that improves in value every time you take it. Get lost. And don't come back until your head has been rearranged.
Music Critics Ballots -Year End Picks
DAVID DE YOUNG, HowWasTheShow.com editor
ALBUMS OF THE YEAR
1. Vicious Vicious, "Don't Look So Surprised"
2. Divorcee, "Music for Cleanup Men, Breakdown and Inbetweens"
3.Tapes N Tapes, "The Loon"
4. Robert McCreedy, "It Might Kill You"
5. Fitzgerald, "Raised by Wolves"
6. Ashtray Hearts, "Perfect Halves"
7. Dallas Orbiter, "Magnesium Fireflies"
8. Belles of Skin City, "Ha Ha Boardrooms Think Tank Tantrums"
9. Big Ditch Road, "Suicide Note Reader's Companion"
10. Chris Koza, "Exit Pesce"
ROD SMITH, freelancer
TOP 10 ALBUMS (UNRANKED)
Atmosphere, "You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having"
Halloween, Alaska, "Too Tall to Hide"
Cloud Cult, "Advice From the Happy Hippopotamus"
Happy Apple, "The Peace Between Our Companies"
Dallas Orbiter, "Magnesium Fireflies"
Fat Kid Wednesdays, "The Art of Cherry"
Soviettes, "LP III"
Tapes N Tapes, "The Loon"
Dan Israel, "Dan Israel"
Orkestar Bez, "Nice Driveway, Vol. 1: Tales From the Land of Freeze"
January 14, 2005
At least a year has passed since any local band of note has tried to be Radiohead, so space-rockers Dallas Orbiter might be able to draw a decent crowd to their CD-release party tonight at the Uptown for "Magnesium Fireflies," their third album. Actually, the CD has less of the Thom Yorke kind of paranoia and more of a smiley, bubbly, cosmic feel (see: Grandaddy), especially in the charming would-be single "Arise." Its best track, though, is a swirling, 12-minute, lost-in-space tune called "The Kids," which closes out the eight-song collection on cloud nine (or is that "Plan 9"?). Chris Riemenschneider
St. Cloud Times
Jan. 27, 2005
Dallas Orbiter is a Minneapolis band that will be experimenting with modern space rock one minute and deliver you a pop gem the next.
On the band’s third record, “Magnesium Fireflies,” the pop gem is “Arise.” Standing alongside that perfectly crafted pop are songs such as the passionate opening experiment “Bed of Stars” and the cool sounding fusion of “73rd and Something.”
It is talent and grit like this that is causing Dallas Orbiter to generate considerable buzz on the Twin Cities music scene. -Karl Leslie
Dallas Orbiter: Dalllas, we have lift off
What sort of music does Dallas Orbiter play, exactly? It’s tough to say. Sure, it’s not classical or bluegrass or young country or acid jazz, but after you weed out all the things it obviously isn’t, you’re still left quite a pile of things that it might be. The songs on their new album, Magnesium Fireflies, are tough to pigeonhole. You have the usual guitar, drums, bass, vocals, keyboards thing going—but there’s generally a cloud of misty-but-melodic noise enveloping them. Sometimes the drums drop out and are replaced by drum loops. Sometimes the four-to-five-minute songs wind up stretching out to 12 minutes. Sometimes, you’d swear you could hear a guy using a bow to play a saw (that would be track 4, “73rd and Something.” And yes, it is a guy using a bow to play a saw). Download an mp3 of Dallas Orbiter’s song 73rd and Something. I guess “pop rock augmented by weird noises” is as good a description as any. And, curiously, when Dallas Orbiter went into their basement studio in the fall of 2003, they hadn’t really planned any of this strangeness out. “Most of them started as demos, just me and a guitar and a drum loop,” says singer/guitarist Mark Miller. “And then we just sort of took away the foundation and laid everything down after that. Everybody’s got a pretty strong musical background in terms of theory and all that. The recording was actually pretty quick, and the arranging too. The long part was mixing .... It took a while. Greg’s [Flanagan, drums] idea in the beginning was just to lay down every idea. And to a large degree, we stuck to that, so then it was just carving out the songs and moving stuff around.”And then, Flanagan says, things mutated as the band worked in the studio. “And as we’re recording, obviously we’d come up with new things as we’d go. We’d try different things, like I’d record drums last instead of first, depending on whether we had a drum loop to play with. Then someone would have an idea, and we’d throw them out and try something else.”The music theory background that Miller alludes to served them well in this carving process; any album that has this much going on risks becoming a bloated, impenetrable mishmash. It’s to the credit of the five men behind Dallas Orbiter (Dan Gahres, Jonathan Schmig, Eric Lodahl, and the aforementioned Miller and Flanagan) that Fireflies remains clear and engaging throughout, even when hand tools are being bowed. The album’s fanciful and delicate noises accentuate the melodies, without becoming overly busy or distracting. With huge sonic structures consisting of samples and spacey noises stacked on of a traditional rock base, Fireflies makes one think of a house built of blown glass on top of a concrete foundation. To stick with Miller’s album-recording-as-sculpture metaphor, the band managed to carve one hell of an intricate piece out of a huge block of sound.When your body of songs displays so much musical adventurism, a group runs a serious risk of not being able to have them make sense live. Preparing for shows in support of the new album, the members of Dallas Orbiter refuse to be intimidated by this. When asked about replicating the album’s songs on the stage, Miller was unflappable. “We kind of gave up this time on the idea that we’d be able to do that. We didn’t worry about ‘well, we’re not going to be able to do it live, so let’s not put it on the CD.’ But Jon, for one, is amazingly good at picking up the slack on stuff that we need to recreate live. We just try to do a close representation of it, you know, hit all of the important parts.”The group has several shows around the Twin Cities planned for the near future, but don’t look for them to pack their gear into a van and hit the road for a nationwide tour anytime soon. “We’re too old and poor,” Flanagan says. “When you’re 22, you have no debt, you don’t own a house, you can still drop everything and go on a tour. Not now ... For the bands that do that, more power to them. But we’d rather spend the time making a really, really good record and then see what happens with that.” Rather than grubbing around the country trying to be the Minutemen (who I would offer up as the archetypal living-out-of-your-van, touring-is-life outfit), Flanagan says that Dallas Orbiter has more modest ambitions. “If we can sell enough CDs to buy more gear for the studio, we’re happy.”Postscript: About that saw, Gahres swears it’s actually pretty easy to play. Get a handsaw, a bow and a screwdriver, and “it’s not too bad, you just have to get the right S-curve, and then hit the bow right on the curve. Stick a screwdriver on one end to get your note.” Sure. Sounds simple. ||Dallas Orbiter performs the CD release show for Magnesium Fireflies on Fri. Jan. 14 at the Uptown Bar with The Umbrella Sequence, James Diers (of Halloween, Alaska/Love-Cars), the Bridge Club . 9 p.m. 21+. $6. 3018 Hennepin Ave. S., Mpls. 612-823-4719. Find out more about Dallas Orbiter on their official website, DallasOrbiter.com. Download an mp3 of Dallas Orbiter’s song 73rd and Something. Keith Pille
CD-RELEASE PARTIES A GO-GO
Locally, a diverse bunch of bands are throwing CD-release parties this weekend:
Psych-pop quintet Dallas Orbiter celebrates the release of "Magnesium Fireflies" with a Friday show at the Uptown Bar. Umbrella Sequence, Bridge Club and James Diers (of Halloween, Alaska and Love Cars) open. Ross Raihala
My Top 20 Minnesota albums of the year
1. Low, "The Great Destroyer" (Sub Pop)
2. Atmosphere, "You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having" (Rhymesayers)
3. The Deaths, "Choir Invisible" (Go Johnny Go)
4. Melodious Owl, "Melodious Owl" (self released)
5. Halloween, Alaska, "Too Tall to Hide" (East Side Digital)
6. Vicious Vicious, "Don't Look So Surprised" (The Redemption Recording Co.)
7. Ashtray Hearts, "Perfect Halves" (Free Election)
8. Dallas Orbiter, "Magnesium Fireflies" (Princess)
9. Cloud Cult, "Advice From the Happy Hippopotamus" (Earthology)
10. Motion City Soundtrack, "Commit This to Memory" (Epitaph)
11. Robert McCreedy, "It Might Kill You" (Eclectone)
12. The Soviettes, "LP III" (Fat Wreck Chords)
13. Terry Eason, "The Aching of the Household Fly" (Go Johnny Go)
14. Tapes 'N Tapes, "The Loon" (ibid)
15. Hello Blue, "What It Takes to Wake Up" (Afternoon)
16. Electropolis, "Electropolis" (Innova)
17. I Self Devine, "Self Destruction" (Rhymesayers)
18. Mint Condition, "Livin' the Luxury Brown" (Image)
19. Vox Vermillion, "Standing Still You Move Forward" (Women)
20. JoAnna James, "Desire" (self released)
Posted on December 28, 2005 8:50 PM | Permalink
IN THE CLUBS
If the cold kept you from Dallas Orbiter's CD-release party last weekend, check them out opening for Chicago's Dream-end on Tuesday at the 400 Bar. ROSS RAIHALA
Dallas Orbiter spent a year building a home studio in the basement of drummer Greg Flanagan, and its new CD, Magnesium Fireflies, is proof that that time was wisely spent. The spacey, psychedelic set is full of intricately constructed jamming, but the layers and overdubs the band added while self-producing the record give Fireflies a real richness that should please fans of Miles Davis and More-era Pink Floyd. True to its well-chosen name, Dallas Orbiter plays music that sometimes floats as if it’s barely tethered to Earth, but there’s also an undeniable pop sensibility at work, especially on the CD’s first two songs, the Syd-Barrett-esque “Bed of Stars” and the straight-up anthem “Arise.” Opening acts for this CD release show include Radiohead-ish locals Umbrella Sequence and a solo performance by James Diers of the bands Love-cars and Halloween, Alaska.
The second Minnesota dream-pop explosion is going far better than its '90's progenitor, primarily because its participants--Dallas Orbiter, the Great Depression, and Halloween, Alaska, as well sundry others--tend to be stargazers rather than shoegazers. Plus, they play better, sing better, and write better songs overall. The Violettes' My Bloody Valentine-flavored exotica is a prime example of all of the above.
PRINCESS RECORDS LISTENING PARTY
Friday January 7th, 6pm
DALLAS ORBITER, REDSTART AND REVERSE COWGIRL According to Einstein, matter and energy are essentially the same. Given the massive body of evidence presented on Magnesium Fireflies, DALLAS ORBITER employ E=MC2 as adroitly as any stiff who ever donned a lab coat. Luckily, for all its radiance, the Minneapolis-based quartet's (sic) debut album is radiation-free; its innumerable explosions exhilirating as champagne bubbles. Britpop elegance, garage rock torque, one of the nation's most colorful sonic palettes, melodies both hooky and exotic--the band's inspired intergalactic pop would be a big enough deal even if they didn't go around turning sound into light. Come, if you feel inclined, for the free food at this gala listening party for Dallas Orbiter and illustrious Princess Records labelmates REDSTART (Wendy Lewis, Michael Lewis, Jeremy Ylvisaker, Martin Dosh, and Greg Lewis). You'll end up staying for the music. Rod Smith
Dallas Orbiter, Umbrella Sequence, James Diers, Bridge Club (Friday, January 14th, 2004, Uptown Bar, Minneapolis)
What is it about Minnesotans? When the temperature drops to 20 below zero, we all pile into our automobiles and hit the bars as if drinking too much might help us forget the weather. (Well, actually it does.) When I arrived at the Uptown Bar Friday night the club was already so packed there was a traffic jam in the entryway. The occasion? The Tinderbox Music Showcase, an event which I understand sold out in 2004. And it didn’t look like tonight’s weather was going to dampen this year’s event in the slightest.
I only got to hear opening band The Bridge Club’s final couple songs, but I can report that this trio, which got quite a reputation last year as being one of the new “it” bands in the Twin Cities, is forging their way on into 2005, still deserving their spot as stalwart rockers and scenester favorites. Quite a few fans were obviously on hand to see this always seemingly tighter garage rock band open up the night’s music.
Second on the bill was James Diers of Halloween, Alaska and Love-Cars fame. Diers’ set was nothing short of ethereal. Sometimes nothing can beat watching a lone and unassuming individual sonically captivating an audience. Diers played solo electric, at times accompanied by prerecorded drum and keyboard tracks (ostensibly the drum samples were of one Dave King, Halloween, Alaska//Happy Apple drummer, who was tied up over at the Cedar Cultural Center where Happy Apple was doing a CD release party. The Happy Apple show, incidentally, was also packed according to a report from one mobile music fan who had just returned from the West Bank.)
Diers selections Friday night featured Love-Cars as well as Halloween, Alaska tracks, including “Des Moines,” (you know, the one that ends with that repeated “20 times around the block” bit) which had a certain added intensity to it and drew much applause. It dawned on me while taking another listen to their debut disk today that Halloween, Alaska reminds me of Prefab Sprout because of a combination of Diers’ voice and Ev Olcott’s production. (Paddy McAloon’s vocals with Thomas Dolby’s production have a similar comforting immediacy.) Rumor has it there will be a new offering from Halloween, Alaska coming out on Princess Records sometime in March, 2005.
Umbrella Sequence was up next after a short break. I’ve seen this band maybe 3 or 4 times, and each show is different. Tonight’s seemed to stay pretty much right on course; it was tight and enjoyable, and I can see why this band continues to do well. Live, the Radiohead influence is almost more apparent than on their CD’s, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Grins of enjoyment from seemingly immer-backpacked keyboardist and vocalist Ryan Rupprecht always seem to give Umbrella sequence shows an extra ounce of added charm.
For some reason, towards the end of the Umbrella Sequence set the audience dropped off—a lot. My theory that people were leaving the Uptown to get to the Triple Rock to see Kid Dakota was disproved the following morning when I learned that the same sort of exodus was occurring at the Triple Rock as well at about the same time. So unless people were heading to some private party no one told me about, maybe they were actually going home to get under their blankets.
It’s too bad so many people left because Dallas Orbiter, the unabashedly geeky 5 piece Twin Cities space-rock band, put on a solid show to about a 60 percent full music room. Lead singer Mark Miller had this professorial Mork and Mindy era Robin Williams look going for him tonight in a blue and red striped shirt and spectacles hanging on the end of his nose---not your normal rock star getup to say the least. (The horizontal stripes got me thinking think this band might have oddly fit in at a band shell in “The Village” if the surreal British TV series The Prisoner had been filmed last year instead of the late sixties.) Dallas Orbiter played many songs from their new CD Magnesium Fireflies (Princess Records, November, 2004) and even a damn fine cover of “Palmcorder Yajna” by The Mountain Goats (You know the song, the one about the vedic ritual of self-sacrifice from “We Shall All Be Healed” with the twisted repeating line “And the headstones climbed up the hills.”) Miller has the perfectly thin and intense voice necessary to pull this song off well, though a friend also noted their version sounded a little like Roxy Music. Something weird about the mix made it almost un-listenable without earplugs (it sounded just fine with them in) that might have explained why many people moved to the bar-side of the club during the DO set. The set took a bit of a downward slide during its final third—the energy drifted a bit with a slow ballad (it might have the shimmering and slow “Akron”) and another song I did not recognize—but they pulled it out in the end with the spooky and grooving “Bed of Stars,” the opening track off the new CD, with its half step rising and falling chord progressions. David de Young
Howwastheshow.com’s Blah Blah Blog
It's cold as hell. Go to a rock show
As this week's Triple Rock Press Update so matter of factly pointed out, "It's too cold to go sledding, so a rock show is the perfect prevention for cabin fever."
Of course there are many shows tonight, but I am torn mainly between two. Kid Dakota, Rob Skoro and the Ashtray Hearts are at the Triple Rock in what should be a triple whammy of a bill. The ever twisting and turning Steve McPherson promises a full report from that show.
I myself will be heading to the Tinderbox Showcase in hopes that their quadruple bill will steam up the windows of the Uptown Bar a bit. The bill features Bridge Club, James Diers (of Love-Cars and Halloween Alaska, The Umbrella Sequence, and Dallas Orbiter in the headline spot celebrating the release of their new CD Magnesium Fireflies on Princess Records.)
I'm excited to hear Dallas Orbiter live for the first time. Truth be told, I was not familar with the band until I received their new disk (their third release) in the mail a week or so ago. As musical guests on KQ Homegrown Sunday night, the band seemed willing to accept the frequent label of "intergalactic space rock" because the term is so nearly meaningless it gives them the freedom to do just about anything. The disk is at times funky, at times poppy, at times weird (like when the melody of the opening track "Bed of Stars" is co-opted by that tremulous sound Alexander Courage used in the theme from Star Trek and when phaser sounds erupt in the functional title song of the album, "Arise.") Despite its "space moments," the album is surprisingly down to earth, listenable and fun. Only a severely under-exposed ear will miss the strong Radiohead influence on tracks like "So Pretty."
Of course you don't have to take my word on any of this as you can preview the entire album on the band's website: http://www.dallasorbiter.com.)
Consider this my own "A List" or "Hot Ticket" promo piece for a show that has already been pushed by The City Pages, The Pulse and the Star Trib. What I'm really saying is that given the sub-zero forecast for tonight you might need a little extra assurance that you're headed for a sure-fire thing. This is it. David de Young
Especially impressed was I by that aforementioned group called Dallas Orbiter who got onstage with tiny flashlights fastened to their heads and played one piece - must have been an hour long or so - that seemed to be about the protean stew out of which life evolved. The only lyric in this synthy, rocky, chaotic stew was, my friend/date for the evening Leslie O'Leary (who actually enjoyed the music and recently lamented not having her name appear on Google hi, there, Lez) and I agreed after some confusion, "there are seventy-five million kinds of life." Sung over and over again, we got the point, and it augmented the message of the whole piece rather well. The lyric marked the high point of cogent "music" as most people understand it in an hour of otherwise disassembled, chaotic and maligned strangeness that somehow seemed to hold together pretty well as performance. I would not encourage people to listen to this set on headphones in a dark room with a flashlight tied to their heads on acid in a basement specifically. I would encourage them to come out and watch this band do their thing. The band jumped from saws to basses to keys to drums to instruments you couldn't quite make out in the dark. I liked it and might even give "experimental" music a second listen now that I've seen it with my own eyes. I might even find the Focus Quintet's members and watch them record eggbeaters grinding a bowl of toothpaste while their keyboardist plays only the black keys in all seriousness. It would be interesting to watch. Kevin Anthony Kautzman
The last performance I would see that night, although not the last performance of the festival, was Dallas Orbiter. As if photographing bands in the dark isn't hard enough, the only lighting this group would tolerate was a small flashlight bound to each of their foreheads. As millions of little LEDs joined those flashlights, the group began what seemed to be an improvisational piece. I've seen handsaws played before, and of course would always rather hear that than a shovel. But then Dallas Orbiter surprised us all by shifting away from random experimentation into hard-pounding rock, piercing whistles, and a star war's worth of electronic bleeps and pops. The rock jam continued like a rumbling train for several minutes until another improvisational interlude, and then again back to the pounding rock, the speakers barely able produce the noises being demanded of them.
The crowd loved it, and we were happy to leave the festival on such an optimistic note. Don't get me wrong; it kills me to think I was missing two bands, but exhaustion has become my enemy as my age has increased. To paraphrase the emperor in Amadeus, one can only hear so many notes in an evening, and as it was now approaching midnight I had been hearing notes for almost 12 hours. Sure the night had its ups and downs, but everyone's entitled to their own feelings about what worked and what didn't. To those I've critisized, I would also restate that such a personal expression is inevitably not going to be appreciated by everyone. My opinion is mine alone. Zak Metz
Dallas Orbiter (CD-Release Show); Umbrella Sequence; James Diers; Bridge Club
The only band that really twinkles, locals Dallas Orbiter mine space rock for uncommonly funky and atmospheric grooves--all while still writing recognizable pop songs (see "It's Not You--I Just Need Some Space" in last week's City Pages). Put another way, their new Magnesium Fireflies (Princess Records) sounds kind of like a bunch of 1960s visionaries who dumped drugs to embrace science as their principal source of wonder and elaborate love metaphors. Or maybe they embraced both. Come early for stellar openers Umbrella Sequence, James Diers (of Halloween, Alaska and love-cars), and Bridge Club. 21+. $6. 9:00 p.m. FRI JAN 14 Uptown Bar & Cafe Peter S. Scholtes
It's Not You--I Just Need Some Space
Dallas Orbiter sets its own course to the ether
In Donald Barthelme's short story "Game," two military officers are manning the command console of an underground nuclear missile silo. Although each man possesses a .45 in case the other becomes unhinged, they treat each other quite cordially and professionally. At first. But 133 days into their confinement, the .45s no longer seem a cautious formality. One of the officers crouches on the floor, playing jacks for hours, refusingto share them with his pleading bunker mate. The denied officer finds purpose in writing a 4,500-word technical description of a baseball bat on the bunker walls. At one point the commanding officer straddles the launch console in nothing but a black bathing suit, stretching his arms in a futile attempt to simultaneously turn the two launch keys (his partner, having already made the same attempt, is not alarmed).
At one point in the story, the narrator simply states, "I am not well."
When local space-rock quintet Dallas Orbiter learned that they would be playing last May's Heliotrope Festival at Franklin Art Works, they decided to construct a droning instrumental piece that would follow the story line of "Game." They knew full well that the abstract relationship between their music and Barthelme's words would be vague at best to the audience, even among those who may have actually read "Game." That's the whole point.
Like the protagonist in "Game," the five guys in Dallas Orbiter may not be "well." And in the sense that they have lost interest in making music that is familiar and expected, or worse yet, "normal," you should be damn glad.
You should be especially glad for Magnesium Fireflies (Princess Records), the band's third release since forming in 2000. Aside from having one of coolest album titles to come out of the Minneapolis music scene in recent years, Magnesium Fireflies magically melds the mystic experimentalism of Pink Floyd, the quirky playfulness of the Flaming Lips, and the honey-soaked harmonies of the Hang Ups. Yet, the richly layered songs on this album never seem overly ambitious or offbeat just for the sake of being offbeat. Sure, there are plenty of pulsating beeps and warbling echoes dancing at the edges of the songs, the kind of effects that have contributed to Dallas Orbiter's categorization as a "spaced-out, psychedelic rock band," as singer-guitarist Mark Miller puts it. But those effects enter the ear like a tipsy whisper, a cosmic sweet nothing, rather than some sort of grating Death Star free jam.
At a recent Thursday-night practice session, Miller sits hunched over a Rhodes piano in the studio that he and the rest of the band built in drummer Greg Flanagan's basement. He slowly rubs his cheek as he struggles to find just the right words to describe his band--and as cool as he tries to play it, it's quite clear he loves this band. Stocky with a wide, face-consuming smile, Miller looks a bit like Jack Black, but with eyes that show just a little more warmth than the comic actor reveals. To his left, Flanagan and keyboardist Jon Schmig are sitting next to the band's computer (one of the more heavily used "instruments" in Dallas Orbiter's arsenal). Eric Lodahl, the "chronically hired and fired web developer," who has a much more permanent job playing organ and guitar with the band, is lurking in a dimly lit corner. Bassist Dan Gahres is sick at home, but he's mentioned often. Everyone's coat stays on for the entire evening, being that the temperature in this cramped studio seems to be hovering around 55 degrees. But there is a palpable warmth and affection between these guys.
In contrast to some of the "intellectual" noise-rock that Dallas Orbiter has been compared to, you'll actually want to listen to all eight songs on Magnesium Fireflies--each and every one. The euphoric weightlessness of a song like "Arise," with its catchy-as-hell refrain, "Arise, magnesium fireflies," imbeds itself into your subconscious playlist practically from the very instant of its explosive opening.
Then, on the very next song, "So Pretty," the band demonstrate their sonic and thematic dexterity, exposing an unexpectedly raw and intimate side. When Miller softly croons, "You're so pretty when you're digging my grave," you can almost feel his breath on your ear, the thin tenor of his voice adding an eerie poignancy to the understated resentment. Miller says much of Magnesium Fireflies touches on the disillusionment and unfathomable complexity that inevitably surfaces in every relationship. He sheepishly admits that his own recent divorce is heavily represented on this album.
By the time you get to the rambling epic "The Kids," with its plodding bass thuds and hovering minimalist guitar lines, you feel as if you've settled in for a few slow-speed laps around Jupiter, the Earth just a smudge on your rearview. You've come a long way.
"There's a lot to listen to. If you see us load in for a show, there's two complete truckloads of gear," explains Flanagan.
When you gaze upon the constellation of effects pedals that litters their practice room floor, it comes as no surprise to learn that three members of Dallas Orbiter earned bachelor's degrees in music recording technology from the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh. Everyone in the band met at UW in the early 1990s, but it took nearly a decade for these old friends to come to their senses and play together as Dallas Orbiter.
Although Magnesium Fireflies represents something of a "return to structure" as compared to their last release, the more experimental Dallas Orbiter in a Vat of Laser, the band is cagey when asked to predict what their next recording might sound like. But they do provide a glimpse of what could be involved.
"We've got six hours of recordings that are just us banging on instruments with tools we found in the shop," Miller says. "We've sort of developed our own language, and when you've done that you don't want to give it up, because it's so rare." Michael L. Walsh