Release Date: November 18, 2022
Label: Independent Project Records
Comprised of ambient guitar home recordings by Savage Republic, Scenic, and Independent Project Records founder Bruce Licher, Exploratorium is now being re-issued as an expanded edition with a 20+ minute bonus track.
Recorded in July 1997 on a cassette 4-track, and consisting of layered effected guitars and bass, these recordings sat unreleased for almost a decade. Transferred to digital and mixed in April 2006 by Michael Krassner and Bruce Licher, these tracks were originally released as a mini-CDr format in a signed and numbered edition of 300 copies.
And the music? It consists of three instrumental tracks totalling 22:22 minutes, all layers of heavily effected guitars and bass. “Peak” opens the proceedings, a 9-1/2 minute atmospheric dronefest with shimmering guitars floating in liquid space, exploring territory similar to the closing number on Scenic’s The Acid Gospel Experience CD, "A Journey Through The Outer Reaches Of Inner Space." “Going Home” is another shimmering dronefest, with some shoegaze-style guitar sounds and sublime melodic structures. The EP ends with “The Penstemon Field,” a 7+ minute epic sounding like something Ennio Morricone might have written for an Antarctic Western, with liberal fuzz guitar and haunting melodies. Fans of Scenic’s more ambient work will find plenty to enjoy on this EP, though the tracks are a bit rawer in sound than most of Scenic’s studio recordings.
Now being re-issued as an expanded edition, Exploratorium’s original selection of three immersive solo recordings are now augmented by the 26-minute atmospheric electronics of "Number 09," a song composed on an old Roland SH-2000 synthesizer whose title is a clear nod to to the Beatles’ most adventurous composition. The release features the iconic hand-letterpress printed oversized die cut pocket folder packaging designed and created by Licher at his Independent Project Press.
Exploratorium has been remastered by Josh Bonati at Bonati Mastering in Brooklyn, NY, and reclaims equal fondness for the natural and the industrial. Licher’s mission is an exploration of sound that feels scientific and transcendental at the same time. This thoroughly inquisitive approach is made all the more clear (and intriguing) by the unexpected pairing of the original three tracks with "Number 09." Whereas "Peak," "Going Home" and "The Penstemon Field" eagerly played with stretching the role of guitars and bass, "Number 09" takes its cue from the hypnotic synths of the Human League's The Dignity of Labour EP from 1979 and sets off for an unconstrained sonic trip that goes from the jarring to the meditative. Together, these four instrumentals make for a most entrancing experience. The music of Exploratorium blurs the boundaries between Licher's cinematic work with Scenic and the early recordings of his UCLA days, which led him to start the Independent Project Records label in 1980. It's a mesmerizing blend of ambient and post-rock, noisy shoegaze and pastoral melodic structures, droning avant-garde and soundtracks at their most sparse and yearning.