In the year that passed between justplainpaul’s 2009 debut Miles and his December 2010 sophomore release Data of the East Accolade, the electro-pop artist endured the loss of his father, an influential and important figure in his life. In dealing with his father’s death, Paul reports (in notes to the album posted to his website, justplainpaul.com) that he “wanted to reflect on a time when he was here in my life, and when things were good and positive.” Paul continues,
“I decided to create an album that embraced my desire to pursue music in the first place. My parents both worked hard when I was a child, and my mother was interested in technology. She bought a Commodore 64, to which we spent many hours gaming it up, and even programming new games that came in thick magazines filled with tons of hard to read, and sometimes boring, code. During that time, I enjoyed the tunes on many of the games that I played for hours. Games like Aztec Challenge, Commando, and The Last Ninja all had soundtracks that turned me on to music and synthesizers in general.”
Data of the East Accolade reflects the impact that early video games had on a young, impressionable justplainpaul. Elements of electronica can be heard — samples and sound effects, extremely digitized vocals — but melody plays a huge part too, as the necessary ingredient gives the disc continuity. If making an album is like baking a cake, melody and rhythm are unquestionably justplainpaul’s flour and sugar.
Playing off a retro video game theme, each track creates a different mood as we embark on the various levels of play in our journey through the East Accolade.
Track two, “Sending Memories,” introduces justplainpaul’s wife, Erina Miller, whose striking and hauntingly beautiful voice is delicately situated atop sporadically placed, vocoder-produced vocals that have a robotic feel. Moving into the title track, we find direction (as if tracks one and two were simply preparation for the battle) and officially embark on the given mission. Track four, “Lost in Innerspace," builds on the previous one’s energy; perhaps leading the listener up a mountain or through the dimly-lit corridors of a dungeon.
"Basic Intelligent Life"
Track five, “Basic Intelligent Life," marks the first encounter with a villain. The song opens with slow bumps, low trudging bass and the menacing voice of The Scuba Cult's Nate Morrow, who teases, “It seems like a good day to die...” Morrow's bark evolves into something darker and even more demented as the track progresses and moves into a goth industrial atmosphere akin to Marilyn Manson or Nine Inch Nails.
“Robotniks” merges an echoing melody with robotic lyrics. Here, justplainpaul’s style mimics that of his livetronica brethren Papadosio and SixDollarSuit.
Midway through, the creatively titled “Please Flip Diskette” keeps it brief and simple, but grabs attention with a noticeably different ambiance that effectively says, “Hey! Pay attention! We’re only half way done, here.”
“Blaster”, devoid of vocals and full of effects, toys with elements of glitch music. On the conceptual journey through the East Accolade, it feels as if we’ve hit a few bumps in the road but are gaining momentum; we are finally nearing our destination!
Track 10, “Melt the C64”, again services the listener with a melody they will quickly learn to recognize. Indirectly referencing the Commodore 64 his mother bought him as a child, justplainpaul preserves the archaic bleeps and beeps of early gaming systems while extracting their funkiness to put his own modern spin on childhood classics.
A few songs later, “Loadstar” enters with an Andrew W.K.-like melody that lays pipe for guest vocalist (and Slothpop bassist) Andrew Malott. In the sea of electro beats and man-made sounds that is Data of the East Accolade, this tune feels slightly out of place on the record, but also signals victory in our excursion.
"INvaders" feat. Mr. Kinetic, Rusty Redenbacher, A.C.E. O.N.E., Cousinkill
A triumphant, instrumental buffer plays on track 13 before moving into one of the album’s standout songs, a star-studded hip hop collaboration named “INvaders” that features Indy emcees Mr. Kinetic, Rusty Redenbacher, Cousinskill and the unmistakable, poetic growl of A.C.E. O.N.E.
"The Ground Up" feat. Lisa Ahlstrom and Douglas Charles Showalter
Rather than fading out his album with a slow song of finality, justplainpaul breaks the mold and opts instead to invigorate his audience. With the assistance of Los Angeles-based Douglas Charles Showalter and Lisa Ahlstrom, the song repeatedly asserts, “Power yourself up!” on top of a disco-inspired electronic soundscape. The irresistible beats and easy-to-learn lyrics incite a hunger for more that will easily persuade the listener to hit play at the end and take the trip all over again.
Danielle covers local music for NUVO.net andIndyMojo.com.