Computer at Sea

Computer at Sea
Palace of the Lightbulbs

Click to hear: “Palace (Exterior)

Computer at Sea is Galen Richmond, an indie rocker turned circuit bender. Circuit bending is the practice of rewiring chintzy keyboards, children’s instruments and other gizmos to create new sounds. The result of this tinkering can be either fascinating or fatal.

The Wikipedia entry for circuit bending notes that “haphazard shorting out of electronic items will almost inevitably … lead to the destruction of the circuit being prodded about. Worse still, it could present risk of fire, burning or electrocution.”

So stand back, ladies and gentlemen, but don’t worry. Richmond is a professional.

Palace of the Lightbulbs, the first proper Computer at Sea release, is a six-track EP of oddly catchy noise-pop. The first song, “How the Cup is Being Filled (Now),” lays out the ingredients: a liberal helping of beeps, boops and blips mixed into a danceable drum-machine beat atop a bed of keyboard tones, with some scratching and static for texture.

“It’s measured in the flames from a burning couch / Just how badly we’ve disgraced ourselves now,” Richmond sings in his decidedly untrained voice. “And when we’ve gotta give mouth to mouth / We make a big show about how we’re not aroused.” (The references to fire, firemen, nurses and ambulances in these songs make you wonder if Richmond hasn’t had a few bending attempts literally blow up in his face.)

The lyrics are fun, but it’s really the music that matters here. “Spiders in the Moat,” one of two instrumentals, is an enjoyably creepy, atmospheric piece. “Palace (Exterior),” the other instrumental, single-handedly creates a new subgenre: geek funk.

“Powerlines” combines geek funk with nerdcore vocals and a splash of Pere Ubu. “The Triage Nurse” sounds like a Tobin Sprout song on a CD damaged by a magnet. “Sullen Lamplighters” is the hit single you’ll never hear on the radio.

In fact, chances are you’ve never heard anything like this music. It’s about time you did.

— Chris Busby

Computer at Sea plays a vinyl release show on Fri., May 20, at Geno’s, 625 Congress St., Portland, at 9 p.m., with openers Powerlines and Hi Tiger.