Google Earth (New John Vanderslice Project) to Release Debut Album in August

Street View (out August 5th) achieves the “hard alchemy” of combining their three main musical loves: songwriting, electronica, and jazz.

By: Jun. 25, 2024
Google Earth (New John Vanderslice Project) to Release Debut Album in August
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Google Earth has detailed their debut album and shared “something complicated,” the album's meditative and restless lead single. The union of pioneering songwriter and producer John Vanderslice and his longtime collaborator James Riotto, Street View (out August 5th) achieves the “hard alchemy” of combining their three main musical loves: songwriting, electronica, and jazz. In some ways the project operates as a new extension of the ever expanding music universe that Vanderslice has occupied since his relocation from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and his embrace of digital experimentation. 

On the new project, Vanderslice shares “It was a lifelong dream to collab with Jamie. We've been incredibly close for 15 years so this feels overdue. It was more meaningful to me than I could have imagined.” Riotto added “John and I have been friends and collaborators for a long time now, but this record feels really different because it’s sort of a culmination of years of pushing each other into more abstract electronic palettes. We didn’t set out to make a record together, either. We just met up a couple of times a month to hang and jam and have dinner together. It wasn’t until pretty far into this process that we realized we were making some very interesting music.”

Street View is surprising and entirely unique; any attempt to genre the record would be a disservice to its ingenuity. Avoiding the cold space that can be created by synth and drum machine-heavy electronica, the duo warms the record with vocals, drums, guitar, bass, and wind instruments. Long stretches of instrumental tracks churning, weaving, brooding, and pulsing forward arrive at unexpectedly familiar verse and chorus. The structure of the record nods to jazz composition, highlighting certain sounds at different times, the only constant seemingly being constant change.

Tracklist:

01 deep sea leaks

02 something complicated

03 JJOLTS

04 re-materialize

05 GESTURES

06 wouldn’t you

07 ggreen ggrid

08 tendril embrace

09 afterlife

More on Google Earth:

Venturing into the unknown is frightening. Many artists find a style that works for them, it draws an audience, gets them gigs, and they stick to it. Accomplishing any kind of recognition and holding dearly onto accrued fans is not a task for the faint hearted. The comfortable, paved road, however, was not the road for John Vanderslice and James Riotto.

John began writing and recording as a solo musician under his own name in the year 2000, gaining a kind of cult following within the indie scene for his devotion to analog recording and its creative limitations. He worked in the studio he built in San Francisco late at night, striking an impossible balance between managing a studio, touring, writing, and recording his own music. Until 2019, all of John’s records were recorded to magnetic tape, then mastered to vinyl. Most will know him for his musical period between 2004 and 2007 when he released his most critically acclaimed records: Cellar Door, Pixel Revolt, and Emerald City.

John was radicalized during the pandemic. Unable to access analog recording equipment in his studio, John was forced to go digital. In the solitude of his backyard LA studio, he spent long hours experimenting with digital equipment (and often drugs) used by artists such as Arca, Sophie, and Autechre. The man known for his beautifully complex, lyrically deep, melodic records was now creating something entirely different. He attributes this change to falling in love with the freedom that digital recording gave him and having his “ears rewired” on MDMA. He is making music that he wants to hear.

Between The Cedars, recorded in 2018 and released in 2019, and CRYSTALS 3.0, his most recent release, he has almost entirely rejected his former self, and possibly the idea of song altogether. Nineteen minutes of screeching, distorted, and occasionally unmusical sounds assault your ears. If you play “The Minaret” (2007), “I’ll Wait For You” (2019), and “CRYSTALS 15 (DIE!)” (2023) to a stranger, you might get a bewildered look when you say, “this is the same guy”.

One of the most important collaborators and friends in John’s life is James Riotto. Riotto is a multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, engineer, and producer. He is most proficient in playing bass, upright bass, keys, and guitar. James grew up in Rhode Island, smoking weed and listening to musicians like Mingus and Joni Mitchell. He went on to study upright bass at Hampshire College and ended up writing his thesis and transcribing Mingus’ The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady. After college, he moved to the Bay Area to pursue music full-time.

The pair met in San Francisco in 2009 when James was hired to arrange Magik Magik Orchestra for a live performance. They began touring together in 2010. Riotto attributes his interest in recording to a conversation he sparked with John while they were on tour. He played John the record him and his band had just completed, feeling excited to share something he was so proud of creating. When asked his opinion, John said, without any harshness, that the quality of the recording sounded terrible. From that moment on, James was committed to making music that sounded good and began working as an engineer at John’s studio, Tiny Telephone. James was immediately recognized as a naturally talented producer and began picking up steam in the recording world. He has since worked with myriad musicians from Mohsen Namjoo to Alex Cameron and Jamie XX and has reliably been a first-call for all of Vanderslice’s projects. In 2022, Riotto opened Altamira Sound in Altadena, a fully-realized studio with enviable clientele. That same year he released his first solo record, Trailing Speed Lines, the culmination of his many years of writing, playing, and thinking about music behind the scenes, finally brought into the foreground. He marks this record as his most profound solo accomplishment to date and upon listening, anyone would see why.

“Google Earth” is the alias chosen by Vanderslice and Riotto for their forthcoming solo project to be released later this year. The pair has achieved the “hard alchemy” of combining their three main musical loves: songwriting, electronica, and jazz. The result is surprising and entirely unique; any attempt to genre the record would be a disservice to its ingenuity. Avoiding the cold space that can be created by synth and drum machine-heavy electronica, the duo warms the record with vocals, drums, guitar, bass, and wind instruments. Long stretches of instrumental tracks churning, weaving, brooding, and pulsing forward arrive at unexpectedly familiar verse and chorus. The structure of the record nods to jazz composition, highlighting certain sounds at different times, the only constant seemingly being constant change.

Some of the most unusual sounds are created by two pairs of Swedish-made Elektron monomachines and machinedrums speaking to each other and modulating each other through midi channels in a destructive process where each subsequent filter cannot be reverse-engineered. One of the most extreme examples of this sonic experiment can be found on the third track, “JJOLTS”, whereas vocal tracks like “re-materialize” and “wouldn’t you” offer a simpler electronic palette to complement their more traditional song structures. The overall listening experience is deeply emotional and engaging. The lyrics are raw, pained, and honest, hitting on some melancholic themes of a troubled relationship, dissociation, and the apparently dismal promise of an afterlife. Marrying these disparate musical elements into cohesive and interesting songs over and over again throughout the record is a truly impressive accomplishment. “Google Earth” in its post-band-name anonymity has carved out a place for itself that is anything but anonymous; nothing sounds like it.

Photo Credit: Maria Brand



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