The idea of improvisation in an Electronic context seems slightly counterintuitive, as samples and beats loaded into computers and synths to be activated by a keystroke hardly seems like the domain of musicians who are making it up as they go along. Multi-instrumentalists Michael Travis and Jason Hann, drummer and percussionist respectively for String Cheese Incident, have created EOTO with an obvious love of Dance and Trance but with a singular vision as to how to achieve that end; Travis and Hann do everything, live and in the studio, in one take, with nothing composed and nothing prerecorded.
The EOTO project began four years ago when SCI decided to take a hiatus. Travis and Hann originally christened their collaboration End of Time Observatory but have since changed it to EOTO, which they learned is the Japanese word for “good sound.” The duo’s three studio albums — 2006’s Elephants Only Talk Occasionally, 2008’s Razed, last year’s Fire the Lazers!!! — and their live presentations have all been formed with the same nebulous and non-preconceived methodology.
Travis utilizes two laptops loaded with Ableton Live and Reason software to loop live guitar, bass, keyboard and vocal input, as well as preset keyboard and bass sounds, and Hann provides live beats while looping vocals and percussion through his laptop, all of which are MIDI synched by way of an Ethernet hub.
Even more astonishingly, all the music that Travis and Hann create is composed and executed in the moment, meaning no two performances — from the isolation of a studio to standing in front of an audience — are alike. EOTO is a fascinating blend of Electronic rigidity and Pop/Rock fluidity, and Travis and Hann are absolute magicians of technological improvisation, an improbable yet dizzying new form of musical expression.
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