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The Apples in Stereo - Electronic Projects For Musicians

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Artist: The Apples in Stereo

Album: Electronic Projects For Musicians

Label: Yep Roc

Review date: Apr. 8, 2008

Electronic Projects For Musicians is unwieldy as an object of criticism. As a compilation of unreleased tracks and b-sides, the album was never meant to be, and thus is a largely chronological series of songs press-ganged together in service of various economic and artistic purposes. As an ex post facto document though, one can perhaps extract some kind of overall meaning.

The Apples in Stereo have always had a bit of Haeckel in them. The history of the band’s development has recapitulated the evolution of ’60s and ’70s pop music – early Apples in Stereo mirrored The Beatles, Beach Boys and Kinks, then wound its way through the ’70s and ended up with the ELO pastiche of New Magnetic Wonder. Electronic Projects could have offered us a truncated glance into that development, and in that way be worthy of some kind of critical attention.

"But it's not. In fact, the difference from one song to the next is rather minimal, and while some songs have catchier hooks (or hooks, period) than others or more interesting instrumentation, there's really nothing to suggest the actual development of the band.

In a way, Electronic Projects For Musicians is more of an economic necessity than it is a piece of art. On one hand, Robert Schneider probably thought somewhere along the line, “We should make all these disparate and rare songs available for our fans. They’re fun and we like them, so why not?” On the other hand though, one can’t help but see this as showing contempt for the album as art.

Someone, at some point, had to imagine who would buy this, and while the non-cynical side of the coin is something like the above imaginary quote, the cynical side is, “These people will buy anything we’ve produced. Throw everything that never made it onto an album together, and send it off to the pressing plant tout de suite.” When one edits anything – an album, a television show, a film – often what’s removed is done so for a very good reason. In certain cases it’s issues of time, but often it’s because the material just isn’t that great.

This is great for obsessive fans and for the remnants of the Elephant Six community, for with Electronic Projects they can get a more complete picture of the band. But why make them pay for it? Especially when most of these songs were released previously (and which the obsessives will probably already have in some form or another)? With all this in mind, if any meaning can be assigned to the album, it has to take into account three interconnected domains: 1) the community of fans that will accord it some deeper significance from the get-go, 2) the dynamic between the sincere and the cynical forces driving its creation, and 3) the constraints of capitalism that necessitate the re-packaging of the old into the new. If the play between these areas can make it aesthetically more interesting, then so much the better for everyone involved.

By Andrew Beckerman

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