Want to get away?
Electronic Planet Ensemble's Spaceman Dada Robot can move you out of Austin's conventional theatre and out of Austin's club-based music scene. The characters and narrative are in your mind, as in a radio play, and the music is high-energy and percussive, with clouds of chords. Add an hour of images improbable, humorous and awesome, then put David Jewell in front of it.
it gets you out out of the house
it gets you out of this world
it gets you out of your mind
This is a remarkable experience, one that floats somewhere in a dream world compounded of free verse, image, and music. You can get a three-minute whiff of it, similar to that "flavored oxygen" that spaceman Jewell describes, by viewing the video. Click on the galaxy, above, to go to the group's website, and then click on "video."
Lots of concept is on view at the Vortex. While preparing this piece, the EPE invited artists -- and anyone interested -- to mail to them art pieces on the "Spaceman Dada Robot" theme. The friendly café at the Vortex is decorated with perhaps 40 submissions, some on the walls, some hanging on clips from a makeshift mobil. There's some great stuff. For example:
Some of these images appear in the trippy hour-long presentation. Other images are by David Jewell, an 8mm film "Space Hobo" by Ben Jewell and George C. Mahle is included, and the rest were, presumably, magicked up by bass-player Sergio R. Samayoa, who is credited additionally for "video" and "technology mastermind."
This is a modestly epic cycle. Jewell is clad in a vaguely techno burgundy jumpsuit as he stands in front of screen and musicians. The twelve pieces are titled Take Off, Space Travel, Space Whale, Space Walking, Robot Daddy, Martian Fantasy, Spaceman, Billy Robot, Feedback Loop, Love-bot (Synapse Gap), Space Hobo, and Robot Party.
With his verse and in his persona Jewell presents us stories with wildly deadpan humor, a narrator compounded of equal parts David Byrne and Bill Murray. He is the observer of the space whale, lashing its tail at the ends of the universe; his tales of robot parenthood and of robot mating are wry commentaries on the human condition. With Space Hobo he voices a traveler long gone, searching for the blue marble of earth. And Robot Party is a better mess-around that anything the B-52s ever did.
"Dada" was the absurdist art of Paris in the 1920s, when a world war had brought into question all the staid assumptions of the culture. This "Dada" is quirky, as well, and revels in the child-like images we all now carry of space -- from early spaceflight to Apollo craft to ET to Wall-E. The bubbling music brew produced by Samayoa, Chad Salvata on keyboards and Rachel Fuhrer on percussion provides the delirium, the video carries us away, and David Jewell, with casual unsurprise, tells us all about ourselves.
Robert Faires' review in the Austin Chronicle of January 22: "Space hasn't been cool that way for a long, long time, but the exhilarating tingle of those heady days returns in Spaceman : Dada : Robot, a song cycle with its head in the stars, created by the Electronic Planet Ensemble.
Kelseyk's review of January 22 on austinist.com: "Set against a loop of imagery, four musicians take us on an aural voyage at about 67,000 miles per hour, give or take a few. This show dips and weaves into various corners of your psyche and leaves you wondering—and wondering is good."
review of Spaceman Dada Robot published January 14 at decider.com (tied to "The Onion")
David Jewell's website, including his photos and other spoken pieces (don't miss "Carwars")
Electronic Planet Ensemble website
David Jewell interviewed for riotink blog, July 2008