Eight Minutes to Wapner – Secret Agent Briefcase of Love

Eight Minutes to Wapner
Secret Agent Briefcase of Love

Take Mike Patton and force him to create a new-age album under the direction of Burt Bacarach and the Residents. Channel the whole pastiche through Grassy Knoll and score it for a non-existent aboriginal documentary/children’s cartoon, and what do you get? A foolish-sounding critic, struggling to describe the sound(s) of Eight Minutes to Wapner. It’s probably safe to sat that they are the most pleasantly surreal band in Minneapolis. Their sound is surprisingly polished and sophisticated, and despite the wide range of techniques and genres they approach, each piece retains its linear form with artful digressions that morph into smooth transitions in the same musically articulate moment. Because most of this is constructed via computer, there is sometimes a wooden quality to their music which detracts from its liveliness; an increased reliance on live instruments might make them comparable the avant-everything supergroup, Sex Mob.

“Secret Agent Briefcase of Love” begins with an unusual stringed instrument plucking out a a rhythm, a few vocal bursts and hand-drums introduce traditional percussion along with electronic beats, a low bass throb, and a small melody. These colors are then added upon by synthesized brass and a repeated figure on a xylophone-like instrument. After the brass interpolates for a while, everything stops and a digerdoo begins to drone, as a harp returns with the same small melody. A bass with accompaniment in the form of electronic sounds comes in, and as the strings tastefully swell, we hear samples of cow-bells, a dirge of male voices, and countless other colors all tastefully arranged. The result is quite uplifting, and after a time it begins to swing with a sort of Mingus-feel (even though harmonically it is far from Mingus … or even Sun Ra, who the piece is dedicated to). As the piece begins to rock more fervently and individual sampled sounds flow in and out of the mix, the synth brass returns in earnest, adding a touch of film-noir to the creepy yet transcendent world-beat that has been established so far. The piece continues to evolve slowly, with the digerdoo being overdubbed and filtered through a watery chorus-effect until it dwindles down and we are once again left with what we started with instrumentally, and the song ceases with a staccato vocal “GAAAT!”

Eight Minutes to Wapner take you to a lot of different places with the variety of sound colors they use, as well as the effortless shift and combination of instruments from different parts of the world. There is always a seamless integration, predicated on the inevitable circular motion that lulls the listener into a sort of soothing captivation with any derivation from one or two themes. The emotional content, however, is quite reserved, and the band never digs down for the sinister sounds that perhaps require live musicians to realize. They seem capable of composing strong piece though, and as their technical skills grow, so will the expression of these abilities.