Tim Willis


I've spent a lot of time listening to Seattle electronic producer Kid Smpl's superb album from last year, Skylight, while revisiting the most challenging game ever made for the Sega Genesis, Ecco the Dolphin. In the video game, you are a bottlenose dolphin that uses echolocation to navigate through side-scrolling underwater labyrinths, and one early level title for Ecco just about spells out a cursory listen of Kid Simpl's music: "A deep maze of caverns with no surface to the dry side. Songs of the sea sing of great danger in this place." Like the gameplay, where you're constantly lost and repeating the same path, Kid Smpl's music is ruminative and cyclical, with noises reappearing across the album at odd intervals, in a similar vein to biosonar clicks. Like all the finest electronic music, Kid Smpl's tracks mix the organic and the inorganic, bringing familiar natural tones together with eerie synthetic ones, akin to a dolphin activating time machines, boarding extraterrestrial ships, and singing to magical glyphs. As vocals distantly radiate from dark abysses to shimmering surfaces, the best songs on Skylight are drawn out into jubilant and majestic crescendos, perfect for swiftly rising to the ocean's surface and breaching for air. And after enough listens, you learn that what really makes Kid Smpl so remarkable is that for all the depth and danger in his music, he can also provide these hopeful rays of light for anyone—human and cetacean alike—who is, in the words of his one of his samples, "desperately, reaching recklessly towards the sky."

Opener Black Hat also have a pretty good, albeit much different, Sega Genesis analogue. Menacing and thunderous with electric twitches, Black Hat's Spectral Disorder is unrelenting and perfectly captures the sound of a robotic invasion, à la the many video games based on Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Drop in early and listen as Skynet becomes self-aware before your very ears. Presented by Rainy Dawg Radio and ASUW. Parnassus Cafe, UW Campus, 7:30 pm, $5 suggested donation.