The Zipstream: Null Device’s Far East electro-pop
by Scott Gordon November 16, 2009

Welcome to The Zipstream, a semi-regular new column in which The A.V. Club will round up new local albums, mixtapes, and EPs that Madison-connected artists share via such channels as Bandcamp pages and upload sites. Got something you’d like us to consider? Email sgordon@theonion.com.

Null Device, Recursions
Eric Oehler, the multi-instrumentalist/vocalist/leader of electronic-music project Null Device, doesn’t seem as angry or theatrical as some of his pals in Madison’s industrial and goth scene (OK, the Inferno and Reverence Festival scene, to be more precise). Nor is he smug and incurious enough to just oontz and bleep his way through chintzy, simplistic dance-pop. On the new odds-ends-remixes compilation Recursions, the band persists in exploring its fascination with the melody and instrumentation of the Far East, which pairs surprisingly well with its dark-yet-slick electronic pop foundation. The aqueous thump of Indian percussion sets the beat of opener “Return” before a electronic percussion and dense layers of synth and guitar lock into it.

On the best track, “Travelogue,” the band’s songwriting chases love from Shanghai to Sydney. A powerful ensemble of Asian stringed instruments lends this song some genuine jet-lagged romance, while a fun synth breakdown in the middle makes it feel more like an intrigue-riddled game of international lazer tag. The next song, “The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove,” does nearly as well with its sinister sitar drone and male-female vocal harmonies. Speaking of the band’s singing, there’s nothing really wrong with it (and Null Device pens some rather compelling, narrative lyrics), but it’s often the least interesting thing in the mix. One exception is the beautiful Urdu-language guest vocal a friend of Oehler’s lays down on “Twisting And Turning (Club Mix),” which offers another direction Null Device could explore a bit further: Finding some vocals that are as adventurous and category-defying as the music itself. Download here.