In the fall of 1997, I left the safety of the world I had known at home and went to college. The morning after my first night in the dorms, I shuffled groggily into the cafeteria to get some breakfast. Sitting at a lunch table with a friend from high school and feeling overwhelmed by a room full of strangers, I was surprised when this lanky, blond kid sat next to us and started chatting us up. It was not the perfunctory motions of getting to know new people; the stranger was energetic and sincere in his socializing with us.
“I’m Galen,” he said, smiling and extending his hand.1
When Galen Richmond released an EP from his project: Computer at Sea, I was curious to see what he was up to after 13 years. The EP, entitled Palace of the Lightbulbs, is full of that same energy and sincerity I experienced when I met Galen for the first time. Simply go to YouTube and search “Bent Festival 2009 : Computer at Sea” and you can see it for yourself as Richmond switches from being stooped over an array of electronic noise-making devices and circuit bent instruments to jumping across the stage in time to the beat he just manipulated.
I put my ear buds in to sample Palace of the Lightbulbs and instantly had my consciousness rocked. After the initial barrage of noise caught me completely by surprise and triggered my “fight or flight” mechanism, the beats of “How the Cup is Being Filled (Now)” settled into a journey of circuit bent splendor and varying time signatures. The bobbing beats and Richmond’s voice were occasionally cut into by glitchy interruptions which those of us exposed to the early days of MP3s are all too familiar with. They compliment the tone of the song well but overshadow the vocals in their intensity.
Two instrumental tracks showcase the cache of instruments at Richmond’s disposal. “Spiders in the Moat” takes the listener on a trance-like venture of melodic beats and small riffs. “Palace (Exterior)” is more vibrant and ingenuous, with fun beats to have the kids movin’ and shakin’.
In the rap-like vocals of “Power Lines,” Richmond attacks his poetry like an erudite Nathaniel Motte. “Sullen Lamplighters,” like all the lyrical tracks, weaves strange imagery into the spinning wheel of the electronic sound. The fourth track, “Triage Nurse” starts out with a static-ridden introduction that fills my head with the images of astronauts and then transitions into an electro-pop song with an incredibly catchy four-cord chorus.
Computer at Sea’s Palace of the Lightbulbs is a fun 23 minute electronic ride. The enthusiasm of the album is contagious and will have songs stuck in your head for days. Palace of the Lightbulbs is available on Computer at Sea’s website for download via Bandcamp. You can name your own price to download the EP and support a piece of Portland, Maine’s local music.
And if you are in the area, go see Computer at Sea so you can take part in the infectious joy.
1. That’s how I remember it going, and I am pretty sure it is not a controversial enough story to be proven otherwise.