Butterscotch Records Artists Quindar Release EP, Perform at Upcoming Solid Sound Festival (Mass Moca, June 27)
Butterscotch Records is pleased to present Twin-Pole Sunshade, the first official release from Quindar, a collaboration between Grammy award–winning musician Mikael Jorgensen (Wilco) and art historian and curator James Merle Thomas (University of Southern California). “Part theory, part band,” Quindar combines rigorous historical research with musical performance. The duo selects archival materials (audio, film, design), and folds them into ambient, electronic, and experimental music. The project is named after Quindar tones, the ubiquitous transmission beeps heard during early manned spaceflight missions.
Timed to coincide with their upcoming performance at Wilco’s Solid Sound Festival, June 26-28 [www.solidsoundfestival.com], Twin-Pole Sunshade sees Jorgensen and Thomas drawing from the official archives of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to conjure a Cold War period aesthetic. Combining the sounds of early computing, telemetry systems and radar equipment with space-mission recordings and early synthesizer technologies that flourished during the same era, Twin-Pole Sunshade is an unexpectedly danceable record that also reads like an historical document.
The title song, “Twin-Pole Sunshade,” draws from archival recordings of the Skylab II mission—the first flight to NASA’s manned orbital space station in 1973.. The track is built around specific recordings culled from Skylab’s precarious start: the space station was damaged upon launch, and crew members Pete Conrad, Joseph Kerwin, and Paul Weitz were forced to conduct numerous spacewalks in order to repair their craft. The track follows an excerpt from the astronauts’ conversation with Russell “Rusty” Schweickart—who rehearsed maneuvers in an underwater mockup of Skylab, then communicated with the astronauts in real time during their spacewalk.
The accompanying track, “Six Degrees of Freedom,” unfolds over nine minutes and draws from the initial telemetry readings that tracked Skylab during its launch in April 1973. Dredged through tape delay, the depth of these technical recordings is matched by Jorgensen’s remarkably emotional mono Moog improvisation, which showcases his real-time command of both the traditional keyboard and the synthesizer's myriad controls.
This skilled improvisation at the command of knob-laden analog technology plays on parallels between Quindar’s live performance and the legacy of NASA’s rigidly defined “mission performance.” Just as early astronauts inevitably improvised within heavily rehearsed mission choreographies, a Quindar show begins with a carefully mapped out strategy that becomes surprisingly improvisatory in real-time. Quindar performs with a responsive video system which includes newly digitized 16mm film footage produced by aerospace corporations at the height of the Space Age. Using commercial, corporate, and government documentation of the everyday (and often banal) experience of living and working in space, Quindar edits and transforms these materials into discrete compositions, which serve as templates for improvisational themes and strategies during live performances in museums, galleries, theaters, and other venues.
Quindar performs regularly in southern California and collaborates with musicians, visual artists, and graphic designers. Twin-Pole Sunshade and Quindar’s current visual identity is produced by award-winning art director and graphic designer Lindsay Ballant.
Quindar performs Saturday 6/27 at Mass MoCA as part of SOLID SOUND, Wilco’s music and arts festival.
Mikael Jorgensen has been playing keyboards for Wilco since 2002 and has performed on their Grammy Award winning “A Ghost Is Born” (Nonesuch Records, 2004) and each recording since. Jorgensen has released several records under different identities such as Pronto’s “All Is Golden” (Contraphonic, 2009) and “Mikael Jorgensen & Greg O’Keeffe” (Butterscotch Records, 2013) and a re-issue called “The Cheetah” (Butterscotch Records 2014). In the winter of 2015, Jorgensen was asked by Roberto Lange aka Helado Negro to collaborate and perform ”Island Universe Story” at Mass MoCA (N. Adams, MA) and The Ordway Center, (St. Paul, MN) as part of the critically acclaimed, Twin Cities based Liquid Music series. Mikael was a recording engineer at SOMA Electronic Music Studios in from 1999 - 2004 in Chicago, IL where he worked with such artists as Stereolab, Jim O’Rourke, Rob Mazurek and Califone. He lives in Ojai, California.
James Merle Thomas is a Provost’s Postdoctoral Scholar in the Humanities at the University of Southern California, where he teaches art history and researches the connections between postwar American avant-garde art and NASA. A curator and historian of Cold War-era art and technology, Thomas was previously a Guggenheim fellow at the National Air and Space Museum, and a Dale fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art. Thomas served as Assistant Curator of the Second Biennial of Contemporary Art of Seville (2005) and the Seventh Gwangju Biennale (2008). His 2015 exhibition, “Loose in Some Real Tropics” (Stanford University) was produced in conjunction with the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, and explored the artist’s NASA-commissioned artwork from the late 1960s. Thomas has also released recordings under his own name and with collaborators on the record labels Apparent Extent, Morr Music, and Karaoke Kalk.
Lindsay Ballant is a Washington, D.C.–based art director and designer with a passion for journalism and storytelling. A former Code for America Fellow, Ballant has served as an award-winning art director of numerous magazines, including Foreign Policy, Newsweek, and Print, and collaborates on other web-based projects under the moniker of Public Service Bureau. Her work has received awards from AIGA, Art Directors Club, the Society of Publication Designers, the National Magazine Awards, Communication Arts, I.D. magazine, and the Type Directors Club, among others.