The Apples In Stereo Electronic Projects For Musicians

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Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: psychedelic indie-pop
Others: The Shins, Pepe Deluxé, The Flaming Lips, Neutral Milk Hotel

Before you get too excited, you should know Electronic Projects For Musicians is not a sequel to the 2007 Rolling Stone top 50 album New Magnetic Wonder. If anything, it's a follow-up to 1996's Science Faire compilation, because this record (named after a 1980 how-to manual) is a collection of B-sides, Japanese bonus tracks, obscure CD-R rescues, and previously unreleased oddities. As such, the appeal of the CD is narrowed to longtime fans, yet, while it is doubtful to register a blip from the fickle mainstream media, picking up Electronic Projects would not disappoint unknowing newbies.

For starters, all the many sources from whence these tracks came (vinyl, flexi-disc, tape, and digital) have been professionally mastered to a near-perfect level. Even the home-recorded acoustic throwaway "Hold On To This Day" doesn't sound terribly out of context. Full marks to studio man Fred Kevorkian on that front. "The Apples In Stereo Theme," however, does kinda standout for being generally obvious and half-baked. The song was intended as the intro to their website and actually somewhat diminishes the pop of the following "Stephen Stephen," written for and performed on The Colbert Report. Maybe the tracks just shouldn't be next to each other on the tracklisting, but the theme certainly wouldn't be missed if it were lit on fire and tossed from a moving car.

Taken from a 7-inch originally included with 1997's Tone Soul Elevation, "The Golden Flower" is a shiny piece of shoegaze inline with Joy Zipper embracing a touch of "(Don't Fear) The Reaper." Robert Schneider rarely lets himself go that far into the contemplative deep-end when he's plugged in, but it sure works here. Meanwhile, "Avril En Mai" is a remarkable find from an old Emperor Norton compilation. Backed by bubbling keyboard effects and shimmering acoustic guitar, this is the first entirely French-sung Apples song I've heard.

"On Your Own" appears courtesy of a spinART CD-R, and its presence is much appreciated. The guitar work sounds like distortion from the mid-’90s, jiving over what could be a synth drum kit, while Rob outlines one of his signature sweet girl odes. Granted, there may be a reason these tracks were all left off major releases, but, with a couple rare exceptions, those reasons are not apparent. Altogether, Electronic Projects For Musicians sounds like Mr. Schneider merely loosened his concept album reigns a little, to good effect. So, while this compilation retrospective may be aimed at completists, there is plenty going on here to satisfy even the most casual listener.

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