No amount of aural preparation or immersion into weird offbeat electronic sounds can quite prepare you for the trippy, ear and mind-bending experience of Smomid’s new album Pyramid Scheme – and that’s because the wacky cornucopia of rhythmic impossibilities, droning ambiences, spacey synth romps, R2D2ish utterances, Gregorian chants, plucky string exotica and taiko drums are all self-generated by unique instruments built by guitarist Nick Demopoulous.
Perhaps not surprisingly considering how improvisational this trip through molecular musical space is, before Demopoulous entered this otherworldly dimension, he was a veteran jazz guitarist who, among other bits of cool resume fodder, played for years with legendary drummer Chico Hamilton and recorded on his final three albums. He also released several recordings with Exegesis, a group that mixes jazz and electronic music. In 2008, the band toured Bahrain, Yemen, Oman, U.A.E and Kuwait on behalf of the State Department.
The story of the making of Pyramidi Scheme is probably more interesting and easily digestible than some of the hypnotic sonic oddities and chaotic texturing going on (though melodic lines often kindly emerge, i.e. on the worth waiting for chillout closer “Age of Leo”). But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try – and especially if you’re into fascinating syntheses of sound and crazy juxtapositions from (it seems) neighboring galaxies, you are obligated to!
Essentially, Smomid – whose name is derived from an acronym of his primarily instrument (and first he ever built) String Modeling Midi Device – only utilizes instruments that he has designed and built to perform interactive computer music. It’s also interesting to note that there is also a visual aspect to the Smomid aesthetic. All of his instruments emit light through high powered LEDs, and some even illuminate visual animations and text through several LED displays embedded in the instruments.
Casual or mainstream listeners who can’t deal with electronic experimentation and avant-garde type projects may run shrieking after a few minutes – but no matter. Smomid seems more interested in reaching his fellow musical adventurers and those who appreciate what they do.