Friday, July 15, 2011

Ebu Gogo and Dr. Who's Capoeria Companion

Aside from its visibility as a site for the Austin City Limits festival, Zilker Park is a place where many people go to be alone in public, usually shirtless.  It’s not “topless” like you might think, but if you are in downtown Zilker Park with a shirt on, you are clearly a square, regardless of age or physical condition.  This afternoon there were a number of scantily clad and “publicly isolated” activities going on, mine being a focused listen to Ebu Gogo’s Worlds.

Ebu Gogo was a northeastern instrumental keyboard-bass-drum trio with a surprisingly balanced and efficient chemistry.  When a reader described them to me, he labeled them as “Adventure Rock,” which I think adequately describes the playful narrative quality of Worlds.  Using keyboard sounds that might have come from an early 80s Dr. Who episode, they construct miniature compositions with the playfully catchy feel of an 8-bit video game soundtrack smeared with a layer of hyperactive drums and grungy, polyphonic bass.

Worlds will be most immediately appreciated by fans of technique, but it doesn’t quite devolve into a showcase for the band’s chops.  This is partially because the band seems to be genuinely having fun playing fiendishly clever music, but also because of Worlds' broad spectrum of moods.

In a wider sense, the settings of mood in music are mostly culturally determined.  Our perception of “happy” and “sad” music is not universal, but clearly some kinds of activities are better suited for some kinds of music than others.  Not all of the stuff happening at Zilker Park in the heat of the Texas summer fit the playful energy and surrealistic fantasy of Worlds.  Certainly not the overweight guy with the illegally parked minivan meditating in the shade or the mother of two wrestling the training wheels on her oldest son’s bicycle.  In more atmospheric moments, though, I did notice the hot wind moving the trees, drawing my eye to the cold Austin skyline peeking up through them.

Eventually, in a wide open space framed by a half-dismantled stage, I ran across a guy with heavily tattooed ribs practicing what had to be the Brazilian martial art/dance capoeria.  After watching him studiously sway, spin, flip, and kick around for about thirty minutes, I continued to walk around the park, scanning for other activities that might deepen my interaction with Worlds.  Anytime the energy picked up, though, I was drawn back to his playfully aggressive movements.

So, based on this careful research, I think someone should commission a video game in which you control Dr. Who’s erstwhile companion, who happens to be a twentysomething male hipster that practices capoeria.  This latter component, by itself, will dramatically improve the awkward fight scenes traditionally found in 80s Dr. Who (win).  In addition, there should be lots of running around in narrow hallways that are lit in that distinctive low-budget BBC way, and at least one level called “Hotworld”  (maybe even "Effing Hotworld").  Ebu Gogo should do the soundtrack.

Or you could just check out Worlds.  That’s probably less work.

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