Skies Are Filled with Information
Frozen In The Puzzle-Piece Mind: The Unlikely Story Of The Occupants Of Six Across The year was 1998. Popular music was in it's senescence, it's arthritic old bones propped against a creaky banister in a feeble attempt to sway. The Bugs, a band who might now be characterized as psychedelic post-punk, were enduring a bitter dissolve. They had migrated to Los Angeles from the utter irrelevance of Peoria, IL, and perhaps naively anticipated a warmer reception from California audiences than was received. After several ill-fated recording sessions, The Bugs disbanded, amidst rumors of occult practices, mental illness, and a now-famous proclivity for abuse of obscure hallucinogens. In 1999, two former members of The Bugs, Paul Gentile and Jeff Gregory, frustrated by the limits and tedium of the standard-issue, guitar/drum oriented rock paradigm, embraced electronic music. What followed were a series of experiments in synthesis, a reckless forging of new musical amalgams. A 'let's try anything' approach was adopted, and soon backward break-beats were heard intersecting backward guitars, Schubert samples, stuttering robots, subliminal mantras, maudlin televangelists, and in the foreground, the omnipresent, harmonic vocal-drone of Jeff and Paul. And so was born the Occupants of Six Across. Rather quickly, this 'experimental ooze' (as they call it) congealed and gave way to form, and thus began a long year of recording, sometimes every night of the week. As these recordings were somewhat intentionally shrouded in secrecy, new rumors, some quite startling, bloomed nearly overnight. Lou Barlow of the celebrated indie-rock group Sebadoh remarked: 'I would sometimes see these guys wandering around the Hollywood Hills at, like, 3:00 A.M., mumbling incoherently about 'parallel continuums' or whatever. When I'd ask what they were up to, or I'd say 'Hey, it's me, Lou!' it was like they didn't even see me. 'Nobody's Home', y'know?' Another insider claimed, 'these guys were hooking up these galvanometers and encephalographs to their heads, and they would sleep like this, with electrodes, right there on the floor of the studio. They would then feed the data through a MIDI interface directly into the computer, where it was converted into tones and melodies. Said they wanted an 'uncorrupted translation of archetypal relief' or some shit. Very creepy.' Sitarist Brian Kuhar, who played on the Occupants' track 'Evacuation Plan for Subspace Platform 11b', said of his experience, 'I was told where and when to show up. When I arrived, I was blindfolded and led into the studio. They unpacked my sitar, and duct-taped various microphones to it. They then handed me back my sitar, some headphones, and said 'Play whatever you wish'. So I did.' Even stranger were the vaulting assertions of the German electronic duo Mouse on Mars, who were visiting during the summer of '99: 'we actually went to that houseÂ...and they wanted our blood, they kept asking for blood samples. They had a large digital microscope hooked up to the same computer they were recording with. I said, 'what do you want with my blood'? They said 'Get the f*** out of here'.' When Paul Gentile was asked about this incident, he only replied, 'You have no idea what you're talking about.' The results of these efforts became The Skies Are Filled With Information which was released by Subspace Platform Recordings in autumn of 2000. The 16-tracks on the LP leapt discursively between lysergic psy-trance, post-modern 'art rock', disjointed shoe gazing, and the just plain bizarre. Equally compelling was the album's subtly evocative sleeve art, with it's dizzying, aeon-contrasting front and back covers. Designed by Paul, it's said to be intimately linked with the record's veiled conceptual continuity. Lyrically, the album was awash with ambiguity, prompting some to speculate as to it's conceptual nature. Themes of cognitive dissonance, free will vs. Determinism, novel concrescence, and quantum paradox pervade the songs, punctuated by near-human allusions to fetish, phobia, love lost, and the 'freedom of submission', sometimes briefly revealing the nerves and organs beneath the countenance of wires and resistors. During what was to be their first interview with the music mag 'Raygun', Jeff Gregory was asked about the 'story behind this conceptual work'. His only reply was reportedly 'This interview is over'. Illustrative of their insouciance is the O6A's apparent reluctance to perform in a live setting. Their first and only live performance to date occurred in the summer of 2000 at The Troubadour, in West Hollywood. Enlisting the aid of auxiliary member Jeremy Kerner (whom they call 'The Tenant'), the group seem to have left the substantial and unprepared crowd somewhat befuddled. With Paul illuminated by the Christmas lights protruding from his custom-designed jump suit, they expertly negotiated such tunes as 'Choose Your Own Adventure' and 'Nanodreaming', as well as a rather narcotic rendering of the involute 'Superstring! Theory'. In the brief interstices between songs, The Occupants would trigger samples of applause, supplanting the audience's role, and thereby further obfuscating the ordinarily respected delineation between subject and object, between the observer and the observed. Three months later, without warning or explanation, the O6A disappeared completely. In the summer of 2003, a full three years after the release of The Skies Are Filled With Information, the O6A emerged just as suddenly as they'd once vanished. Paul, it turned out, had sold or given away most of his possessions, and then fled to Latin America, where he had spent the better part of a year pursuing shamanism throughout the continent. Jeff Gregory had been immersed in various other musical projects, and some evidence suggests that Jeff & Paul worked together briefly in 2002, when the duo were living a few blocks from each other in Chicago. As of January 2004, the O6A have resumed writing and recording in Los Angeles, and a 10-song as-yet-untitled CD is anticipated for summer release. Expect a short string of live performances to follow.