Elektragaaz hails from the New York City-New Jersey area and it’s safe to say no one else working today is quite like them. Comic strips, techno, rock, classical music, gaming, club, and even film noir find their way into the presentation of this live and virtual instrumental group. The band’s “leader” is a seldom seen Frisian composer, ala Brian Wilson, working under the Poppo Redband pseudonym. Redband provides the conceptually minded material for their new EP The Synaesthetic Picture Show Now Playing, Part 5, but the six musicians bringing this songwriting mandate are collaborators every step of the way.
They meet the challenge of bringing live and electronic music together in a consistently satisfying package. “Behind the Final Veil” starts things off on a decidedly techno note, driven, and peppered with a biting rock influence. There are alternate strands audible here and it’s a pleasure listening to how Elektragaaz brings Redband’s ambitions to life. Tempo is a big deal here as the band is intent on setting an energetic note out of the gate. They shift that energy, however, with the second song “October’s Child”. It has a lot more room to breathe than its predecessor and the percussion emphasizes a dance vibe. Moving from the all-out techno punch of the opener into such a comparatively sedate song is a bold move that they make work.
Listen to The Synaesthetic Picture Show Now Playing, Pt. 5 on Spotify. Elektragaaz · Single · 2022 · 6 songs.
“Manhunter” will be a hit for many. It exceeds even the impressive energy level that the first song has without ever surrendering even an inkling of control over the performance. It couldn’t be any clearer that both the composer and musicians are on the same page. There are several influences that this track recalls for me; it’s one part soundtrack for some high-tech thriller, one part techno powerhouse, and has echoes of eighties electronic music as well in the song. “Sebastian’s Cat” is the EP’s second to last track and, in a way, its big moment. Three of the album’s six songs clock in over the five minute mark without ever taxing our attention.
I hear a lot of the earlier “October’s Child” making its way into this cut. Elektragaaz has expanded on its percussive possibilities, however, and explores rhythmic dimensions that the earlier song never dared. It’s an edgy song, in some ways, as well. I hear the band’s daring here greater than anywhere else and it comes at an excellent place in the EP’s track listing. A gentle sway begins the final song “Daybreak and Déjà Vu” and it has a dream-like feel that carries listeners with its melodic lift. It is, in some ways, the band’s most traditional song and without question a redemptive final note for an otherwise stormy, even dark, release.
It isn’t to say, however, that there aren’t melancholy turns in this song’s journey. The second half has pensive and inward-looking passages before segueing, once more, into a near-ethereal gear. Elektragaaz is responsible for one of 2022’s most singular and memorable works, however brief, with their new EP The Synaesthetic Picture Show Now Playing, Part 5.