“Open the Book” a New Chapter for My Robot Friend

31 May

The story of My Robot Friend begins in New York City in the 1990s. Howard Robot — no, I don’t know whether that’s a stage name or a real one! — was a guitarist, bass player and vocalist in the band, Princess. Just before the band signed with a well-known indie label (which represented P.J. Harvey and Stereolab, among others), Princess broke up.

Robot retreated to his studio, where he began experimenting with his computer and a bunch of electronic equipment. As his website explains, “The more time he spent in his studio…the more he personified the gear he worked with. After a while, all of the machines began to feel like…friends.” And My Robot Friend was born.

A little less than seven years after My Robot Friend’s most recent release, Soft-Core, Robot and his friendly machines are back with the latest chapter for the musical and performance art project, Open the Book.

With a name like My Robot Friend, one would expect an automated, robotic sound. And there’s certainly a thread of that throughout. But Open the Book can best be described as a compelling collection of electro-pop melodies featuring some great guest vocalists including newcomer, Andre Williams, and well-established indie artist Dean Wareham of Dean & Britta. The lyrics are mostly about love and losing friends, which makes “Goodbye” a particularly apt opener. The electro-pop song was actually released in a brilliant animated video almost four years ago. Smooth, flowing synths and airy vocals float over a lively synth bass and drum track.

“909” — a common code for a type of software error — is short, simple dance-y electronica — all jumpy beats and synthesized handclaps. “When the sequencers start/I lose my self control,” Robot sings, “Oscillator circuit kick it right on time.”

The title track, “Open the Book,” is a standout — with cool typewriter effects interwoven with complex, catchy beats and pulsing and fuzzy synths. This is one of several tracks that feature Williams’ outstanding vocals, and it’s one of the best songs on the album.

“Shipwrecked” is an ominous-sounding synth-pop arrangement. Robot-like automated beats underlie an almost 80s-like pop song with Robot’s quiet gentle, vocals.

The collection concludes with “Gone,” a tune that features the soft, reassuring vocals of Dean Wareham from the duo, Dean & Britta (and before that, Luna). A simple beat and twinkly bells make this an exceptionally catchy number.

Whether electronic music is your thing or not, My Robot Friend’s Open the Book is really good read.

A note: I believe the album is only available — and at a very reasonable price too — through My Robot Friend’s website.

 

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