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Unconventional math-rock, video game performer releases first solo effort

Adam Spektor

Issue date: 10/3/08 Section: Focus
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Within seconds of hearing any of Spencer Seim's works, it's perfectly clear that he tackles his craft in very unconventional ways.
"You go into recording not having anything written, and when you're done a few hours later, you're like, 'What?'" said Seim. "It's almost like you didn't write it."
Seim, the multi-instrumentalist for math-rock outfit Hella and drummer for video game music cover band The Advantage, has just released his first solo effort under the guise sBACH. The self-titled album, released last month on Suicide Squeeze Records, is a dense instrumental work. Its sound falls halfway between his other two bands, within complex math-rock structures and the blips of classic 8-bit Nintendo soundtracks. For Seim, these two styles could be one and the same.
"The musical background I had when I started picking up instruments and learning how to play them was a mix between video game music and the classic rock my parents listened to," said Seim. "I started to learn these parts and began to pick up on the weird time signature changes you might notice in video game music because it's so repetitious."
sBACH is a concise record, clocking in at around 35 minutes, split up into 13 untitled parts. The lack of song titles is an odd feature, but it adds cohesion to the album.
"I could have given the songs titles," said Seim. "But for me, it would jumble up the simple artwork and the album… the entire album should just be known as sBACH."
sBACH is currently on a national tour with indie rock group Pinback, whose 2007 release, Autumn of the Seraphs received many critical accolades. Pinback asked Seim to join their tour after performing together multiple times prior to sBACH's inception.
"I guess we just like the same kind of music because we always end up playing together," Seim said. "And they've been nice enough to put us on many bills."
One fascinating aspect of sBACH is that Seim recorded the album entirely by himself, and despite its spontaneity, it sounds complex and intricate. The challenge of bringing the album on the road was met by several of Seim's old high school friends.
"They're all great musicians who I've played on-and- off with over the years," Seim said. "They all agreed to just sit down for a few weeks and learn all of these crazy parts that took us all a little while to figure out."
Seim, along with his touring band and Pinback are performing at the Grog Shop on Wednesday, Oct. 8, followed by a few more dates with Pinback and then an extensive tour on their own. Additionally, according to their MySpace, there will be "lots more shows to come."
"I don't have a job job, so I do physical work during the day, and then from late afternoon through night, I work on music," Seim said. "Unless, of course, I'm recording a record, in which case I'll work on that all day."
The process is a labor of love, and this shows in his work, however oddly assembled it may be, and will surely show in his performance.
"We're just here to have fun and play interesting music," said Seim. "Hopefully people will get something out of it."
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