By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
"They would send me music, and I'd mess with that, and I'd send them music and they'd mess with it," Laner says. "We tried to be as brutal as possible. I tried to push it in as musical and rhythmic a direction as I could, and keep things concise and focused."
The players on Transcontinental were seldom in the same room at the same time. "That's the beauty of it," Russo--who hasn't yet met Laner--says. "I'm sick of dealing with personalities and such...hopefully, that can be a thing of the past."
"It's always better not to have to look at people," Laner says. "Not to worry about egos. I mean, I butchered their stuff, and they butchered mine, but if one of us did something really good, the others stood back. The whole project just gelled. It was a bizarre phenomenon...sometimes you can allow randomness to prevail and it works; other times it's just crap...but I think this time it works. One of the cool things about that record is that it skips from as many ideas to as many ideas as possible, taking as many archetypes as it can and piling them atop each other, like a catalog of ideas."
Russo concurs: "I fell into it quite naturally and felt very comfortable. Sometimes music isn't just for playing for your girlfriend--it can be a tool to set a mood."
That mood-setting function is one of the things Christopher Moock finds so attractive about the VDO, and one of the dominant features of his Miasmata, an album that is a bit more flowing and less jarring than Transcontinental. Although varied in texture, there's a deep, almost oceanic feel to the album, as if it were the soundtrack to what a whale might see, from a sun-shiny surface full of light to caverns and chasms so far below that their dimensions are more sensed than seen.
"I'm very much influenced by films--it's so nice to see somebody's artistic vision, to have your feelings triggered in a certain way," Moock explains. "You can do that in a song. Like at 5:30 in the morning after an all-nighter and you're sitting on the steps and everything's just starting up; while you can't say 'the sun coming up sounds like this,' you can play something that has that feeling, something that gets the sounds and the thoughts in your head down on tape."
In a society that has resources enough to provide (if not guarantee) everyone his moment of precious self-expression, productivity bestows real credibility, and the VDO is nothing if not prolific. The group has just moved into a new space in which Castille has deployed his digital studio, and Moock has a complementary analog setup. The Organization is working both with Doug Ferguson of Fort Worth's Ohm on some truly remarkable material, and with the group Primitive Echo--changing even now from their thrash-metal origins into something Castille describes as "tribal bone rhythm" and Lumbleau predicts will end up as "very dark, angular, avant-progressive stuff." VDO6--titled Saturation--is ready to be released, and they've just signed a deal with highly regarded psychedelic reissue label OR. There's even a pop effort called Interface in the works, and the VDO is working with filmmaker Cary Talkington (Love and a .45) on the soundtracks to his upcoming films. Mazinga Phaser's Dover has recently called Castille, wanting to work with the VDO again, and the group is again contemplating live performance. "Something like the MAC," Lumbleau maintains. "Not just playing for a bunch of drunk people."
"So many people just aren't productive," Castille says. "In the time that most people do one album, we've done at least eight or nine." He pauses for a moment. "But that's OK, because we're looking for that timeless stuff.