If you follow a particularly zeitgeisty, technology-obsessed sector of the Brooklyn music scene, you may have encountered artist Tabor Robak while watching the glistening digital animations he's done for Fatima Al Quadiri and Ford & Lopatin, or while reading about conceptual pop group #HDBOYZ, self-described as "the world's first boyband in high definition." The 26-year-old Portland native's website, which contains everything from visual renderings of imaginary geological specimens to a 90-minute video of continuous, summer blockbuster-ready explosions, reveals that the dude's imagination would seem to have no end-- especially where dreaming up Avatar-seductive, virtual environments is concerned. Most recently, Robak conceived the game component of Gatekeeper's equally digital-centric Exo LP, an extended, first-person journey through star-studded galaxies, labrynthine space stations, and imaginary ecosystems so vivid that you can almost feel the water perspiring from the trees. Ad Hoc spoke to Tabor about collaborating with Gatekeeper, the beauty of "fourth-wall breaking moments," and why he hesitates to call Exo a game.
This morning, Brooklyn electronic duo Gatekeeper unveiled the virtual gaming environment that 2011 Rhizome grant winner and new media artist Tabor Rybak dreamt up for Exo, their debut LP on Hippos in Tanks. The game visualizes a distinct, interactive environment for each of the album's 12 tracks, and can be experienced in all its dramatically contoured, high resolution glory by visiting the website they created specifically for the project.
LA-based record label Hippos in Tanks recently released two Gatekeeper remixes, both of which heighten the violence and spectacle of the original. Gobby's Lynchian version of "Tree Drum" is a prime example of dark techno, with muddy synth beats permeated by gunshot-like percussives. Not to be outdone, Total Freedom's take on the track sounds like being in the middle of a battlefield, with the ultraviolent percussion put at the forefront and backed only by sirens and dissonant wails.
Gatekeeper, the freaky HD duo of Aaron David Ross and Matthew Arkell, have always had a multimedia vision for their music. One of the best parts of their visually evocative horror-techno EP, Giza, was its ultra-rare accompanying music video VHS; and for their forthcoming LP for Hippos in Tanks, Exo, they've planned to extend that re-interpretive idea to the level of audience participation.
Tabor Robak will be building album-inspired video game environments that listeners can explore from a first-person perspective, though how they'll be constructed or utilized still remains a mystery. The viney Avatar-raver "Tree Drum," a recently uploaded piece from the album, makes me wonder if the game is equally influential of the music. Ross and Arkell have moved beyond the typical goals of the dancefloor and turned their fog machine'd John Carpenter aesthetic into crisp, spacious, psy-fi.
Exo drops July 24th on Hippos in Tanks. Tabor, in addition to programming the gaming environments, does all the visual work for Exo. He's implanted hidden messages within the artwork that are readable with a secret font for download here.