Mikael Jorgensen of Wilco and Art Historian James Merle Thomas Team Up to Create Music From NASA’s Audio and Visual Archives
“…super awesome, historical, space noise art.”
Quindar is a collaboration between Grammy Award-winning musician/producer Mikael Jorgensen of Wilco and art historian and curator James Merle Thomas. Combining archival research with musical composition and performance, Quindar uses historically significant audio recordings and film to create experimental electronic music and synchronized video projections. The duo derives its name, Quindar, from the ubiquitous transmission beeps heard during NASA’s early manned spaceflight missions, and their first LP, Hip Mobility, is built from elaborate use of audio recordings from NASA archives of that golden era.
Stereogum is currently streaming the album opener “Twin Pole Sunshade for Rusty Schweickart.”
Quindar has worked since 2012 with the National Air and Space Museum, USC School of Cinematic Arts and The National Archives to digitize archival recordings and films created by NASA researchers during the 1960s and 70s. Hip Mobility will be released on July 14th on Butterscotch Records on deluxe 12” gatefold vinyl as well as hi-res and standard digital formats. The LP features artwork by renown graphic designer Lawrence Azerrad of LAD Design(Wilco, Miles Davis, The Beach Boys), and the extensive liner note essay—part manifesto, part historical exposition—dives deep into the band’s artistic and conceptual viewpoint.
“This album isn’t quite history set to music, but rather history as music.”
It’s clear that the first single “Twin Pole Sunshade for Rusty Schweickart” is an infectiously dance-driven track, yet because it’s named after the American aeronautical engineer and former NASA astronaut (who communicated with astronauts in real-time during their spacewalks), the song stands as a thematic reference to Hip Mobility as a whole. But dig even deeper into the soundscape — up the volume in those headphones, if you will — and it’s clear that the track is a historical document as well, combining the sounds of early computing, telemetry systems, and radar equipment with space-mission recordings and early synthesizer technologies that flourished during the same era.
This is not the glitz and glamour that one might normally associate with the golden age of space travel. Instead, Jorgensen and Thomas are interested in the “minor histories” of the era —zooming in close on the minutiae the casual eye and ear might miss, spotlighting specific elements of space travel and NASA space life in order to draw out unexpected—and perhaps less heroic and less grand—narratives. The result for Quindar is a music that presents us with the humbling wonders of outer space itself while shrinking mankind’s “conquering” of space down to it actual, minuscule scale.
Coming off of a head-turning performance at this year’s Big Ears Festival, Quindar will be playing the Eaux Claires Festival and the Wilco-curated Solid Sound Festivals in June.