Astrea Corporation Points Out, "You Can't Roll a Spliff on an MP3"
Digital Cypher Photography
The laws of the universe are simple. There is ebb and there is flow. The moments where the end game is nowhere in sight are always followed by times where just getting started is the end game itself. It's those times of lull, though, where the go-getters remain in action, quietly chipping away at the evolution of sound. Folks like those in Astrea Corporation, the Fort Lauderdale trip-hop duo, who effectually create flow where the void exists.
The group did this on Saturday night at Respectable Street Café in Downtown West Palm Beach (alongside Astari Nite), and will surely do something just as ethereally monstrous coming up on Saturday at DADA in Delray Beach.
"Making each show a unique experience and keeping an element of surprise is a goal of Astrea Corporation," says Carly Astrea, "We use our written material as a jumping off point for the live performance. It really varies depending on how we are approaching that particular show on that particular night. There is always the intent to create an atmosphere and a mood. Having the ability to mutate and switch things around keeps things interesting for us, as well as people who have seen us before."
No strangers to the idea of doing things differently, the band not only takes advantage of their ability to keep things interesting live, but also on multiple recorded formats. Their very first recording, was printed to pink translucent vinyl. And while they've been steadily releasing tracks at the rate they finish recording them, their most recent output, Ocularscience, distributed on Record Store Day 2013, was transcribed to a perfectly hip purple cassette tape, served up in an envelope with some homespun artwork adorning the front.
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"Analog mediums are imperfect by nature, inherently flawed. Over time they have a tendency to degrade and warp, but there is a beauty in the idea that the art may change physically over time as well as sonically. There's something to the medium shifting and evolving that appeals to us." Says Astrea, whose vocals seem to translate seamlessly over any format.
"More so, we as a group have a direct belief that no matter what the format, releasing recorded music should encompass a visual, tangible element," she adds on. "Plus, you can't roll a spliff on an MP3."
Though they haven't hinted to the format of their next release, Astrea Corp is looking forward to sharing the upcoming Paradise Oscine, which will no doubt feature Mike Astrea on the production line.
"We are heavily influenced by '90s era trip-hop as well as long form ambient noise music, kraut-rock, and electronic music. Kind of plucking little pieces and shards from this genre and that genre," Carly reports, piecing together a description of the sound Astrea Corp monopolizes in South Florida.
While each Astrea (if you will) plays a crucial part in piecing together that aesthetic, the group shares the stage with a decent amount of equipment to aid in the modification of their contributions.
"My favorite piece of gear at the moment is the Korg Monotribe," Mike Astrea admits. "It has the same filter as the Korg MS-20 and is great for adding texture."
It's not easy to determine whose role is most prominent in the sound of Astrea Corporation, though Carly Astrea's vocals are a driving and apparent force. So it's interesting to learn that Mrs. Astrea is quite fond of the TC-Helicon VoiceLive piece that helps get her sound to the levels she needs to stand out among her fellow artists on stage.
"It is specifically made to improve levels of live vocals and has been a godsend, since I tend to sing much softer than boys play," she reports.
Despite the electronic element Astrea Corporation is so well known for, the human element still shines through traditional touches from the rhythm of Sandor Davidson, whose pride and joy is the effect his Brass Piccolo Snare has on the Astrea sound.
When Julian Cires, also of Lavola, joins the band on stage, he keeps a selection of pedals at the ready, which amount to a not so typical guitar accompaniment.
"My circuit bent fuzz guitar pedal is a staple," Cires says. "My buddy Seth over at Panic Pedals designed it for a particular Lavola song, but it has found a cozy home in the Astrea Corporation arsenal, as well."
The group has been busy in the studio and keeping up appearances on the scene, even as Black Locust Society as a whole takes things a bit easier these days, but that's where Astrea Corp is staying hard at work.
"We are planning an East Coast Summer tour, where we will be debuting our live visual/audio production," Carly Astrea reveals, "which we have been doing diligence for with Chris Hill of Digital Cypher."
Mike Astrea has also been keeping busy working closely with Ricardo Tejeda honing in on aspects production for Tejeda's hip-hop endeavor, Gaps.
As the bass of their latest track practically unglues the screen from the stereo speakers, it's obvious that the team has been hard at work developing their sound, staying hungry for their next aural addiction, which they will inevitably be anxious to share with their listeners.
"We never intentionally set out to create a specific type of sound, it just evolved organically into itself," says Mike Astrea.
And just like any other organic material, even dressed up with extra band members or a fancy piece of equipment, Astrea Corporation retain their character, allowing them to go off the experimental deep end of their choice because, ultimately, they remain the geeky sound hounds they've always been, keeping their music unique and undeniably relevant.
Astrea Corp. 11 p.m., Saturday, May 25, 52 North Swinton Ave., Delray Beach.
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