Null Device
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Null Device

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Jul
25
Null Device @ Memorial Union Terrace

Madison, Wisconsin, USA

Madison, Wisconsin, USA

Apr
16
Null Device @ The Inferno

Madison, Wisconsin, USA

Madison, Wisconsin, USA

Feb
21
Null Device @ Ground Zero

Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

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Music

Press


Some recently released local electronic albums have abandoned their sequenced, mechanical ways in exchange for raw emotion. Caustic's powernoise and Stochastic Theory's melodrama are a far cry from the cool, robotic detachment often associated with the genre.

Enter Null Device. The third CD by Eric Oehler's project may not be an adrenaline rush, but it's strong on mood, driven by world-music influences. On tracks like "Triangular," the tribal drumming evokes mystery and quickly grows hypnotic.

There's no shortage of straightforward electro-dance pop to be found here, either. But Excursions succeeds by drawing on contrasts between electronic mechanics and rising emotion.
- The Isthmus


This unique band from the US synthpop scene continues to perfect their blend of traditional electronic pop with a smooth, hypnotic blend of ethnic instrumental additions. The first track is a wonderful song that focuses on the middle-eastern drum rhythms and ethnic instrument loops, while the next song jumps right onto the dance floor with the thumping kick drum and pulsing bass line. That diversity continues back and forth through the album, with one catchy song after another, layered with different mixes of electronics and cool international music flavors. These guys are smart musicians that are not afraid to use many influences as wonderful infusions into their pop sound. - A Different Drum


A mix of Middle Eastern rhythms and anxious Spanish guitar rouse "Snow and Joy," a roiling global groove by Null Device that reminds you just how accomplished these local synth jockeys are.

Eric Oehler's elastic vocals are more out front on a number of the other tracks on the group's new album Excursions, but his performance here has a Romanticism about it that's redolent of the Moorish conquest and the cultural changes it wrought on the Iberian peninsula. Suggestive loops and the aforementioned Spanish guitar add to the impression that here Null Device very much intend to chronicle the onward rush of implacable historical forces.

Obviously, it's the kind of tune you wouldn't really expect to bubble up from the heartland. But Null Device have always been a sophisticated crew, and their synth-laden work has had international appeal precisely because they take risks and search far and wide for new sources of inspiration. - Thedailypage.com


Following up their 2004 release "A Million Different Moments", Null Device answers back with yet another great album. As the name "Excursions" would hint, the familiar synthpop sound of Null Device is accented with Middle Eastern influences (most prominently on the first track "Triangular"). One thing I really enjoyed about this album is that it has a more upbeat tone than their last release, but don't expect this to be a boring collection of 4x4 beats. It's all Null Device with their non-formulaic approach to song-writing, combining wonderful production work with well-throught lyrics backed by tremendous vocals. - Plasticsickness.com


An addendum to the Madison elctronauts' impressive sophmore CD, A Million Different Moments, this burn-your-own EP offers smart reconstructions of three album originals, including an expertly textured swoon-dance mix by Texas synthpop maves Iris. Null Device's obsessive love of bhangra rhythms is emphasized - alongside some lovely synth patches - on two disparate mixes of "Walk in London," as well as a club-ready Hungry Lucy update of "Travelogue."

Most intriguing, perhaps is the all-acoustic arrangement of "Walk..." It may feel mildly gimmicky at first, but it proves a song this well-written and poignant can stand on its own with nary a wave oscilaltor in sight.
- The Isthmus


Outsiders might think Madison has some thriving electronic music scene or something.

Well...thriving? No. Fertile? It seems so.

Following in the footsteps of Oneiroid Psychosis and Stromkern, Null Device is the latest locally bred synth/industrial artists to produce a nationally released CD in the last few years. Sublimation, issued by the Ohio-based Nilaihah label, is a rich collage of sinewy electro-melodies, coolly emotional vocals and tastefully detailed production.

For Eric Oehler, the principal behind Null Device, the album is the culmination of many years spent learning the arts of songwriting and computer-based recording. He can pinpoint specific artistic decisions that keyed his transition from amateur keyboard-noodler to legitimate recording artist. "A big step", he says, "was when I decided to do something more interesting vocally than my initial concept of 'angry distorted industrial vocals.' Once I decided to actually sing, everything suddenly had a better flow. The lyrics made mroe sense, the songs had more emotional resonance, and I felt I could start thinking of this as something more than just a spare-bedroom hobby."

The other big decision he made was to install his friend Eric Goedken as an official second member of Null Device, albeit a member with an unorthodox role. Oehler, you see, remains the band's sole musician (in the traditional sense of the word, that is), performing all vocal and instrumental duties. Goedken, besides being the primary lyricist, acts mainly in a conceptual capacity, helping to steer Oehler's musical ideas in appropriate directions. Goedken lives in Berkeley, CA, so the two collaborate by trading mp3 files via e-mail.

This unusual partnership seems to work well for them. "By not being encumbered with the technological details of recording, [Goedken] does an excellent job of keeping me from wandering off into an obscure studio-geeky direction" says Oehler. "Just because I found it interesting to program a particular sound doesn't mean that sound's going to improve the song."

Both Erics are knowledgeable about electronic and alternative music of diverse origin, while Oehler also credits his training as a classical violinist in shaping his approach. "We get our influences from all over," he says. "I listen to all sorts of things, from Turkish pop music to glitch techno, and spend a lot of time trying to figure out what ideas I can learn from the various genres."

Sublimation attests to this strategy. Diverse flavors abound, from the Gregorian chant-like feel of "Sacre Coeur" to the Peter Hook-like bass lines of "Call of the rose; from the minimalist IDM of the Bjork-inspired "How" to the organic violin-guitar textures on "If Only for a While." The album also features Null Device's bouncy cover of the Smiths' "There is a Light That Never Goes Out", already a favorite in dance clubs, as well as a remix of "Footfalls" by Stromkern's Ned Kirby.

The trick, in a field as narrowly defined as synthpop, is to establish a distinctive identity -- a trick the Erics pull off admirably. "We've tried diligently as a band to keep from falling into the rut of 'just another Depeche Mode clone," says Oehler.

Goedken follows: "We try to mean and feel what we are singing. The lyrics all come from something I believe in or am part of in some way. They are also recognizeable as Null Device in the sense that Eric's voice cuts through all the tracks as a sincere expression of himself."
- The Isthmus


Null Device has an interesting history. They first gained recognition in the late 90's when an mp3 of their unauthourized electro-cover of Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game" spread across the internet and got played in dance clubs in many parts of the world. They are officially a duo of Erics who met in college, Eric Oehler and Dr. Eric Goedken. Dr. Goedken moved to California years ago and still writes for the band but doesn't play live with them.

Their latest CD, A Million Different Moments, a winner at the Madison Area Music Awards this year for Best Electronic Album (along with the band's win for best electronic artist), continues their tradition of mixing electro, Goth, and 80's-style pop with rather unorthodox elements like tribal beats and a myriad of other instruments that Oehler has taught himself to play or imitated using software on his home computer. One wouldn't easily guess that this was the type of recording that would get played in electro-industrial nightclubs from looking at the minimalist cover art (a picture of the sky with a tree in the corner) unless you happen to be a computer geek and recognize the Unix reference in the band's name.

The CD starts out rather creepily with the haunting cello of "Destinies and Symmetries" but it gets more upbeat as it progresses through the electro-influenced "Easier" and "Electrified." One song, "Travelogue", makes two appearances here; first with your typical western drums and orchestral strings, then later on we hear the Turkish version with traditional Middle-Eastern instrumentation.

The complex fusion of modern electronics and ancient sounds continues to be a theme in most of the remaining songs. Rock guitars are prevalent in "Unknowingly" (which has the gothic rock feel of The Cure or New Order) and "Prevailing Winds" (where the guitar screams "in your face!"). The lyrics are generally simple and poppy in nature, and it's easy to see why Oehler was nominated for Best Male Vocalist at this year's MAMAs; his smooth, somewhat high-pitched voice sometimes appraches femininity.

The end result is an impressive opus that is accessible, easy on the ears, and distances itself nicely for other electronic recordings with a large and refreshing amount of non-electronic variety. Their live show, however, is an almost entirely different animal; it features former Rattbelly guitarist Dan Clark, bassist Chuck McKenzie, and an iPod for the percussion and backing tracks, creating a rock-band feel that is worth checking out. Their drummer may not need food, water, or oxygen, but their guitarist makes up for it by showing his punk rock roots as he shreds onstage...well, as much as a Smiths-type band would typically allow. - Rick's Cafe


Madison's Null Device has grown more and more eclectic in methodical steps: Last year's Excursions not only pulled together electronica, Middle Eastern and Indian music, industrial and pop, but also made sense out of the crossbreeds (for the most part). Just like most things within a mile of industrial music, it gets a bit maudlin at times, and the vocals aren't as flexible as the music itself - though that shouldn't keep anyone from admiring the aqueous electro-pop of "You're Not That Charming" or "Twisting and Turning." - The Onion (madison edition)


Discography

Excursions (2007, Nilaihah Records NR032)
The London EP (2005, Nilaihah Records NR022)
A Million Different Moments (2004 Nilaihah Records NR020)
Footfalls (2003 independent)
Sublimation (2002 Nilaihah Records NR008)
The Year In Pixels (2001 Independent)

Photos

Bio

When a biochemistry student and a computer nerd first met and discovered they shared a passion for 80's electronic pop, they had no idea that a decade later they'd be writing music together. But that's how it happened. It wasn't glamorous, nor were any ads place in Melody Maker or NME - just a chance meeting of two guys, one with a talent for production and songwriting, the other with lyrical abilities and an ear for a good hook.

Although starting as a simple electropop duo, along the way they picked up a bevy of collaborators - a rock bassist from the frozen wastes of northern wisconsin, a percussionist with an inordinate fondness for RenFests, a punk guitarist with a penchant for showtunes, a singer whose dulcet tones bely the ability to belch like a trucker, another vocalist with classical carnatic vocal training who just happens to be a neurophyscist...all of whom at one point or another, in one combination or another, gather in the studio to play with anything from brand-new synths and samplers to woodwind instruments that predate written history.

A little bit of cinematic progressive electronica, a little bit of bhangra, some Indian classical, some Egyptian art music, a smattering of dub, and a lot of solid western pop music all roll together into a cohesive, surprisingly coherent whole.

Null Device has released three full-length albums and two EPs on Nilaihah Records, an indie electropop label. They are currently recording their third EP and their fourth album.