The music blends with the sound of the water fountains. This is a place that Sputnik shocked into existence. It has white arches that rise high above pools, pathways, and platforms. This is the center of a museum that was designed to impress young minds with the beauty, grace, and power of science. Shakespeare was not going to win the Cold War. America needed scientists to build better rockets, better satellites, better space suits, better jets than the Soviets. That space/technology/arms race came to an end in 1989, with the fall of a wall in Berlin. Today, Russia is more of a nuisance than a threat. And nowhere in the world will you find anything like actually existing socialism or an alternative to market-centered ideology. As a consequence, the Pacific Science Center has become a museum of a future that's now buried in the past.
A tune drifts from one of the platforms. A very white half moon is low in the sky. The sun is slowly setting. A helicopter lifts with urgency from a pad on top of KOMO's headquarters. A golden pod beams up the slim stem of another Cold War monument: the Space Needle. The tune is new and called "Remedy." It has a dash of Moroder in it, a dash of what one critic described as a "dublicated synth line," and a beat that, when set against the whiteness of the museum's sculptures, walls, and pathways, has the feel and pace of a person walking on the moon—a person whose gait has been lightened by low gravity. As I near the platform, more of the music's details fill the air. There are sweetly sad strings, disrupted here and there by sudden electrical noises. Hollis Wong-Wear—one of the three members of the Flavr Blue, the group that's performing "Remedy" for a video shoot involving a camera on a new Microsoft smartphone—sings: "This condition, I don't need a remedy, I don't need a remedy for this condition/I don't need a remedy/I don't need a remedy/There's no remedy for the ways that I've changed/So I've nothing to lose walking into the flame."
"We all come from hiphop," says Hollis, whose vocals are now famously featured on Macklemore's next huge track, "White Walls." The shoot has ended, and she and the other members of the group, Lace Cadence and Parker Joe, along with guest violinist Maggie Tweedy, are now packing up their equipment. The seagulls above us are unusually loud, and the deepening dusk is transforming the Pacific Science Center's whiteness into a ghost of a building.
"We are all rappers. Lace raps, Parker raps, I rap. I was a member of Canary Sing, so that's still a big part of our lives," says Hollis.
And this is certainly what makes the Flavr Blue one of the most curious and interesting bands in Seattle. Though all of its members have deep roots in local hiphop—Parker with State of the Artist, Lace with Clockwork, Hollis with Canary Sing—the music draws almost exclusively from European electronica, Chicago house, and pop. Though one would think that such a break in form and substance was the product of much planning and consideration, all three members state that the project came together by accident. "It just happened that way," says Parker. "We were just feeling that we needed to do something new, it turned out to be this," Lace says. "I was just hanging out with my boyfriend's friend [Parker], you know, sitting on the couch doing nothing, and I got interested, sang a song, and it came together," Hollis says.
When the Flavr Blue released Pisces last year, even I was skeptical about the whole project. It wasn't that it was bad, but it was such a radical break from anything that Parker or Lace had done in the past, and, more bewilderingly, they were far from being in decline in the hiphop game. Every part of their 2012 EP Imagination (production, rhymes, beats) displayed a mastery that exists only in the dreams of many young artists around town. And then the sudden switch from hiphop to pop, from rhyming to singing, from street realism to decadent dreams of love and loss—it should not have worked. But it has. And, as what I have heard of the new EP Bright Vices, which drops on September 24, makes very clear: The Flavr Blue are still growing and moving in the right direction. Says Lace, "We are all writers, we all have different emotions, and the challenging part is making it all come together into something tight and simple."