MICROBUNNY with SIANSPHERIC at the Rivoli (332 Queen West), Saturday (February 2), $6. 416-596-1908.
you can understand al okada's desire to go it alone with his new Microbunny project.For almost a decade the guitarist chugged away as one-fifth of Guelph combo King Cobb Steelie, adding layers of ambient guitar and wheezing melodica to the group's churning dub/funk grooves. Democracy's fine, but as any artist with his or her own ideas will tell you, dictatorship's much more efficient.
The open-ended Microbunny project, which began making incidental music for film and television and will release its debut CD Saturday (February 2) at the Rivoli, put the guitarist in the driver's seat. Okada does all the music himself, with pal Tamara Williamson providing vocals.
Refined over six years, the project is a testament to the lengths to which sampling can be taken. Like the Cinematic Orchestra, United Future Organization and Swedish jazz fusionists Koop, Okada creates a virtual band on each track, in his case playing every instrument and then chopping up the loops into one coherent piece of music.
The mood is by turns swinging, abstract and incredibly quiet, and the seams between the samples are rarely obvious.
"Prior to doing this project, I wasn't really that familiar with how to use a sampler," Okada reveals. "I did most of my recording the old-fashioned way, onto tape. Once I left King Cobb, I bought a few of the home-recording programs and pissed around with them for six months before I felt comfortable enough to really start recording.
"It actually makes more sense for me to work this way than with a big group. I'm primarily a drummer, not a guitarist, and that makes this process fairly straightforward. I start with drums, chop it up into a loop and then end up jamming with myself on a computer."
What sets Microbunny apart from many of the other cut-and-paste projects is Okada's choice of samples. There are no outside sounds on the dozen songs on Microbunny's debut, just Okada leaping around from drums to guitar to piano.
Not having to credit others on your record makes for a cheaper project and, according to Okada, a more consistent sound as well.
"I can appreciate people sampling outside records," he offers, "and I even tried sampling other things myself. It worked, but it was different.
"I couldn't identify with it, because it wasn't me playing it. It diluted the direction I was heading toward. I don't know if anyone else would notice it, but I would."
Having removed the band from the Microbunny concept, Okada had a new challenge: to turn his virtual group into the real deal for live shows. Wisely realizing that a duet performance between a singer and some guy behind a laptop is about as exciting as unclogging a sink, Okada's turned his studio project into a proper quartet.
"It's a reverse process," Okada laughs. "I give them the finished product and they make the music. I let them go and do what they want, but I direct the overall mood and feeling of the music.
"It's difficult, and I end up still doing a lot. I'm playing guitar and keyboards and running the drum loops. There are no DATs, so it's very open, not like a Microbunny karaoke machine."firstname.lastname@example.org