Anyone out there remember when MTV showed music videos and not just soft-core reality shows? In the late ’80s it was every bit as hip as Twitter is today, but you had to watch it in your living room, not while pedaling down the freeway. One of the giants of music video artiness was Thomas Dolby, best remembered for “She Blinded Me with Science”. That ’80s synthpop style has faded away, just like greased back doo-wop and leg warmers. But Mr. Dolby is back with radically different sound — he declaims “I have zero desire to add to the myriad of machine-based synth driven grooves out there.” Good for him. Let’s see what he has to offer on this three-track EP.
Opening track “Oceana” takes a long and almost New Age trip soaring over sand dunes on a sea breeze lift, contemplating other eco-zones, and a dreaming of a mix of romance, luscious acoustic soundscapes, and a calming Zen-like view of his place in the universe. Cut two, “Simone,” recalls the slower numbers from his 1994 “Mind’s Eye” video. Here he heads inland to Kansas for vacation, an odd choice if you weren’t born there. Surreal insects flutter in the background, an airplane passes over at 30,000 feet, and Simone herself has gone off to Havana to drink rum umbrella drinks. It’s cool and Latin, and certainly not a synth groove. Wrapping up this sampler, we delve into the deeper and more existential relation he has with Caroline and her life boats. It sounds more urgent, more visceral, and less romantic, although the irony of samba still underlies his story.
This EP comes from a larger project called A Map of a Floating City with an all-star cast. Mark Knopfler, Natalie MacMaster, Bruce Woolley, and Imogen Heap all pull him along in his radical change of direction. Today, many of our ’80s icons are returning to the studio, all heading in different directions. Dolby has swung his course between New Age, light jazz, and a sultry tropical sound. It’s interesting, and his superb studio talents make this worth a listen.
Thomas Dolby: www.thomasdolby.com