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Playlist: Space rock for an earthly age

Playboy Spaceman hits one out of the galaxy with new release

Posted: February 27, 2014 - 12:01am
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Artwork for Playboy Spaceman's "One Heart Army" by George Kuhar  Courtesy of George Kuhar
Courtesy of George Kuhar
Artwork for Playboy Spaceman's "One Heart Army" by George Kuhar

I botched my first listen to Playboy Spaceman’s newest release, shaming the album by subjecting it to crappy laptop speakers during a slow moment in the office. I got through a bit of music before the workplace chaos returned, at which point I paused the track and got back to business.

I resumed the listening mission after work, this time via headphones, and I couldn’t believe my ears. The sensations I experienced were aural, but they stimulated my imagination in such a way, it was almost as if I were viewing a music video.

“One Heart Army” opens with its title track, a powerful piece with dynamics that make the five-piece sound like, well, an army. Coincidentally, I’m in the middle of Mark Twain’s “Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc”, so as I listen, I can’t help but visualize some combination of the words I’ve been reading and the sounds I’m hearing now; I’m transported to another place altogether.

Experience it for yourself: “One Heart Army” is one of two cuts from this album available on YouTube. And for crying out loud, unless your sound system’s value is on par with that of a small child, put some headphones on. These musicians clearly put a lot of effort into the subtle nuances of each track; as a listener, I greatly appreciate the attention to detail.

The other track you can find on YouTube is “Everything I Was (Or Ever Will Be),” which was featured as a music video in the most recent Juneau Underground Motion Picture Society Winter Film Festival -- yet another demonstration of these musicians’ interest in pairing their music with film.

Anyone who has heard Playboy Spaceman’s founding members, George Kuhar and Bridget Cross Kuhar, has likely also observed the broad spectrum of configurations in which they compose. George can often be found performing solo, projecting his powerful heart and soul to his audiences. Meanwhile, Bridget has a long history in the independent music world, having performed with several well-known bands before landing in Alaska. “One Heart Army” adds a few more musicians to the mix, including bassist Simon Taylor and percussionists Jason Messing and Nickolas Wagner. Studio A’s Betsy Sims engineered the recording, which features George’s original compositions. The release of the full album will be celebrated this Friday at 9 p.m. at the Rockwell Ballroom.

As a musician who works with my significant other, I’m always interested to observe others who do the same. George and Bridget sound like they have a lot of fun together. Their orchestrations are not overly elaborate, yet they are able to produce a full, textured sound, self-dubbed “space rock”, using just a handful of instruments. Their combined vocals particularly shine in “Sonneman”, which also features one of the best clap tracks I’ve ever heard.

As much as I enjoyed the duo’s 2012 “TOKYO” EP, “One Heart Army” demonstrates a step in an even better direction for Playboy Spaceman. It flows effortlessly from track to track and stands as a true album, rather than simply a collection of songs. Still, each song also holds its own merit in its unique way.

Friday’s album release party for “One Heart Army” will include performances by Playboy Spaceman and opening act the Wool Pullers, consisting of Liz Snyder and Alex Kotlarsz, as well as video projections by George. Admission is $10 and the event is open to those ages 21 and older.

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/events/678501632200516/

• Libby Stringer may be reached at l@libbyis.com.

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