S/T, released by Contrapposto, is some of the strangest electronic music to come out of Portland. But something new is going on with this album.
Made up of only two members, Jacob Pitcher and Mirabai Iwanko are able to make an enormous amount of sound. Ambient synthesizers, pounding drum machines, and smooth vocals make electronica music that is refreshing. Modern influences are apparent (e.g., Matt and Kim), but older, more unusual, influences are there too. The out-of-control feeling, elaborate composition, and the elaborate stage costumes are similar to Sun Ra, the free jazz pioneer. To make things more diverse, “Ostrich Eyes” uses a middle-eastern scale, a tool that is neglected in modern American music. Indeed, S/T is not the norm.
Contrapposto, an Italian term used in visual art, refers to a standing human figure with its body weight centered on one leg, letting the other leg stand forward is in a relaxed position. The significance of this pose is immeasurable in Western art, probably the most famous example being “David,” by Michelangelo. This relationship between the two legs of contrapposto is an interesting metaphor for the band. While pounding drum tracks with stability and consistency wage on, representing the engaged leg, synthesizers and vocals that are not bound to strict time give weightlessness.
But Contrapposto is more than just what they sound like. They are a multimedia experience. Wild stage costumes with face paint and glued on wings add volume to their performance. While S/T is great to listen to, these tracks come to life when performed live. Driving energy requires reciprocity. An audience reacting to the wild nature of Contrapposto makes a connection that is impossible with just a pair of headphones and an iPod.
However, tracks on this album also deserve analysis for their musical integrity, too. Iwanko shows superior ability in her singing, with a smooth and flexible tone that stands out in the mix. Pitcher’s instrumental work, with layers of synth and drum programming, is impressive, but not overwhelming. He clearly knows the thin line separating intricate arranging and a messy pile of sound. When the two members of Contrapposto come together, a close musical relationship is obvious. Vocals weave in and out of instrumental breaks to create role complimentarily—Pitcher and Iwanko are dependent on each other, musicians that understand the value of playing with.
S/T shows a cohesive Contrapposto with a strong focus on creativity. Where nothing is straightforward, Contrapposto plays off of the musical and entertaining value of being strange electronica.