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Music by VICE

Recordings For Deviants

We live in a world where nothing is unfamiliar.

by Chris Eng
Dec 1 2002, 12:00am

Pippilina - Upsquirrel

(Nanobrat Music)

We live in a world where nothing is unfamiliar. A world where we have, at our fingertips, every college student’s unskilled and sophomoric attempt at an electronic blending of the Blade Runner soundtrack and bass farting tones from a Commodore 64 they found in a thrift store. “Look,” the phalanxes of composers proclaim, “I’ve taken soundbites from Mortal Kombat and layered them over Britney Spears! I’m a genius! Download my masterpiece and hearken to my Mozart-like exploration of innocence and heads blowing up!” Even if you like the music in theory, by the time you wade through a dozen or so pieces of identical midi-tripe, you feel exhausted, dirty, and are just kind of done with it.

“Doesn’t anyone know how to make music anymore?” you ask yourself. “When did shitty remixes of Shakira become de rigeur? Is everyone a self-educated buffoon whose complete knowledge of composition involves reading the help files for Audiograbber?” And it’s at this point, when you’re reduced to sobbing pitifully, lamenting any kind of talent in the electronica scene, that Pippilina appears like a simultaneous bolt of lightning and breath of fresh air.

Raised from a young age on a steady diet of Kraftwerk and Fred Frith, Pippilina (aka Cait Astrid Meeks) has developed a style which resonates with echoes as far-reaching as Bowie and the NES. Listening to her music evokes about twelve sensory associations a minute and they just keep coming. “Is it like that thing I heard last week?” Yeah, and it’s like that other thing, too, and the hundred and fifty other things which you haven’t made the connection with yet, but will upon successive listening. And here’s the cool part — it’s not any of them, but it’s all of them.

That’s right, in an outlandishly outré maneuver, Pippilina has used compositional skills to make her music. While the current batch of Mixman hacks were busy playing their Super Nintendos, she was composing electronic music at U.C. Santa Cruz. A decade before that, she was taking a variety of music and voice lessons. A lifetime of studying music has enabled her to take the influences from every aspect of our culture and create a tapestry from them, weaving together samples of anything containing a microchip into a unified work with a structural backbone that is wholly her creation.

So, does Pippilina herald a new age of electronica? No, not really. She just does what everyone else is doing, but better. For every so-called original electronic song you download that you wish could be just a little more this or a touch more that, she has the response; the songs that achieve what the other tracks aspire to. Her body of work may not last through the centuries — the way music changes, it’s difficult to tell whether it might last into the next decade — but it’s sitting pretty in the now, taking its seat on the Throne of Power, the rod and the staff comfortably replaced by a copy of Autobahn on vinyl and a well-used Gameboy.

(“Upsquirrel” is available from Nanobrat Music, 1312 Hayes Street, San Francisco, CA 94117. Chris Eng requests that cutting-edge remixes of video game music be sent to him at P.O. Box 8332 Victoria, BC, V8W 3R9)