Tuesday, June 14, 2011

8in8 "Nighty Night" by Kristi Kaldmäe

What do you get when you put Amanda Palmer, Neil Gaiman, Ben Folds and Damian Kulash from OK Go into one studio for 12 hours? A brilliant six song album.

Their idea was to try and create eight songs in eight hours with the help of prompts from Twitter and to stream the whole creative process online. Thus 8in8 was born. The experiment was prompted by them all agreeing to appear at a conference discussing the impact of internet on the music industry called ReThink Music. Suffice to say, even if they did not reach their goal of eight songs it still is a testament to the major role of networks like Twitter, YouTube and Bandcamp as opposed to labels and high and mighty corporate people like it was a decade go.

Obviously because the whole writing and mixing process took only 12 hours the songs are not perfect but they are all charming in their own simplistic way. With a professional writer aboard, and the god of fantasy at that, you can at least expect a slightly macabre quality to the lyrics and Gaiman does not fail to deliver. Although they have stressed that all the songs were a collaborative effort there is a distinct feel to some songs.

Nighty Night starts with the slightly aggressive Nikola Tesla sung by Amanda Palmer. It is very reminiscent of The Dresden Dolls, carrying the same punk cabaret feel. Making a song about a scientist is always a good move to get into my graces and making it a love song about Tesla, everybody’s favourite mad scientist, that is definitely a winner.

From physics and love the mood moves to the parental ballad Because the Origami. With the release of the album there was a call out to people to make their own music videos for the songs and this track so far has had a video with the most controversial response. I admit the lyrics can be understood in different ways and, as it later turned out even the performers had different visions of the meaning.

The tantalising One Tiny Thing is very distinctly OK Go. The claps and the chord progression in the verse are almost hypnotic, on the one hand, lulling you into a sort of a trance yet the heartbeat of the song gives it a slow groove-like feel going through every cell of your body. Topped off with a blues piano it is every bit the contemplative answer to the prompt “A way that Love goes Wrong?”

Fortunately the whole album is not just full of sad tracks. The up-beat yet slightly macabre Twelve Line Song also known for the theme as The Squirrel Song is rather cheerful for a song that starts I saw a squirrel kill himself, he drowned in my bath. The backing vocals show that they obviously were having fun while recording and it carries, making you at least tap a foot if not manically dance around to room singing along. A bit terrible to say it but that squirrel’s death was definitely not in vain.

I’ll Be My Mirror is something of a black sheep of the album because it is the only track not written with the help of the fans on Twitter. A true story about a Chinese woman who is shouting at her reflection in the mirror, apparently a quite famous person in an area of Boston and at the same time a slight tribute to the Velvet Underground song I’ll Be Your Mirror.

Finishing the album is my personal favourite for several reasons, The Problem With Saints. It is a brilliantly witty and macabre tune sung by Neil Gaiman himself. He seems to be channelling Eric Idle with the recitative singing or perhaps it is just the lyrics giving that impression. Either way, we have to thank his rhyming skills that provided him with the word ‘hols’, forcing him to sing it himself.

For an album full of demos, as they said themselves about the songs, it is rather brilliant and to imagine how it would only sound if they had more time to mix them!

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