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Listening to art. Playing with audio. Sounding out technology. Composing in code. Rewinding the soundscape.

R2D2’s Idea of Dance Music

“You can’t beat radio,” says an upbeat voice at the start of the song “Radio,” the opening track of Oki-Doki‘s eight-song album Vila Kula, on the Denmark-based Jenka Music label — the same folks who previously gave us the strong debut of Sofus Forsberg. What follows is R2D2’s idea of dance music: florescent baubles of synthesized pop that rush by with the effervescence of a fountain drink and the bright colors of a spring fashion show. If “Radio” is all beeps and burps, then “Jenka,” the track that follows it, vastly defies initial expectations. “Jenka” may start with a lullaby melody and rhythm, the sort of thing that accompanies battery-operated mobiles — but less than a minute in, a few gentle pauses make way for a far more ambitious composition. Not only does that synthesized beep of a melody calm down — a few key notes providing a thoughtful riff — but about two thirds of the way through the song, what sounds like an electric guitar solo quietly appears and slowly veers close to the foreground. The solo is just the sort of thing that might have spiced up a Steely Dan song way back when.

It’s downright energizing to hear what Oki-Doki manages to do with the simplest of sounds, just the sort of enjoyably saccharine pitter patter that will remind listeners of Trio (famous for the pointillist oldie, “Da Da Da”); despite the music’s playpen palette and its echo of new-wave pop, there’s nothing infantile about it. On a track titled “PW,” the tune is rendered with just enough verve to leave it up to the listener’s imagination as to whether it’s being played by hand, or if it is simply being triggered by a pre-programmed computer. Occasionally, acoustic elements make their presence heard, as with the guitar that is eventually outlined with electric beats on “Pop the Catfish.” Simply put, you can’t beat Oki-Doki’s Vila Kula.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • about

  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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  • My book on Aphex Twin's landmark 1994 album, Selected Ambient Works Vol. II, was published as part of the 33 1/3 series, an imprint of Bloomsbury. It has been translated into Japanese (2019) and Spanish (2018).

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