Published Jul 12, 2019Remember GeoCities? No? Levi Bruce (aka Unknown Mobile) does, and his new album Daucile Moon might just jog your memory.
But, as a reminder: GeoCities was a web-hosting service, most popular throughout the late '90s, where users were given publishing tools to create their own little website. These were then grouped into sections, or 'cities,' named after real-life regions, according to their context: computer-related sites were placed in SiliconValley, for example, while conspiracy theories were found in Area51. The platform got shut down in 2009, but luckily everything was archived. It was here, in the data wasteland of a defunct website, where Bruce found the inspiration for his album.
"I broke my toe at one point, and I was bed-ridden," Bruce tells Exclaim! in an interview. "There's an archive you can download, which has all of the MIDI files scraped from GeoCities. It's a minefield of data that people had on their websites in the '90s and early 2000s. A lot of them are popular songs, but a bunch are just one-off creations that people have made. Some of them are really weird, and a lot don't really work properly, either. I was just going through them and essentially extracting melodies or drum patterns out of the files, and manipulating them, finding instruments, changing tempo, etc."
It might sound like Bruce has simply sampled audio from these old web pages — which would be noteworthy in itself — but it was actually much more involved than that. A lot of the 'sounds' gathered from GeoCities were just written notes for specific instruments. This is just info, not audio, so he had to convert each part of each song in a browser to render the audio; only then could he pick through the debris.
If that weren't enough, Bruce has also tried to capture a snapshot of happy memories with this latest record.
"The track 'Simone Can't Swim' was from a trip I took to the Gulf Islands, outside of Vancouver," Bruce explains. "There was this Golden Retriever, who couldn't swim but really wanted to, and the memory just stuck with me. That's one of the earliest songs I made. 'Medicine Man' was one of the first songs I made in the studio I shared with Khotin. We had a space together in a community lot. He was a big inspiration on that one, and all of my music really. People could easily compare this record to his stuff, in some ways.
"And then 'Oenology,'" he adds, "is the study of wine-making, so it's a reference to my hobby of drinking and talking about natural wine. I was more trying to capture the mood or the atmosphere of those moments, rather than the memory itself — not so much the narrative of memory."
"Oenology" is also a reference to Mike Silver (aka CFCF), who both shares in Bruce's natural wine enthusiasm and is a regular collaborator on Daucile Moon. After moving from BC back to Montreal, where he is now based, Bruce reconnected with Silver and eventually invited him over for a jam session. Silver didn't contribute any production skills, as you might imagine, but instead plays guitar on a number of tracks.
"Mike's contribution was probably the last cherry on top to complete the whole thing," says Bruce. "It was too much of a cohesive lump before. His addition gives it a few more peaks and valleys — it fluctuates a bit more."
While Bruce tells Exclaim! that he does have a couple of smaller releases coming up soon, he also mentions that he'll start studying architecture in September, which may change his musical output.
So stay on the lookout for Unknown Mobile records — and uh, buildings — in the near future.
Daucile Moon is out July 15 via Pacific Rhythm.