Musicians often find themselves pulled in two directions during their efforts to create. If there's one mythical creature that symbolizes this tension, it would be the Pushmi-Pullyu, an antelope with a head on each end of its body from the Doctor Doolittle stories.
Madison-based electronic musician John Kruse didn't just recognize this conflict; he named his latest music project after the disgruntled animal when he found that some of his new ideas didn't match the sound of his existing ambient project, [praw].
"I was making electronic post-rock and shoegazey sounds with beats, and I really wanted to start singing again after not really doing it much from high school," he says. "When Meteorade invited me to play their birthday show in my basement last year, I hunkered down and finished up some loose ends to songs I had been working on for a while."
Kruse also added another real-life head to the band during that first show: Corey Murphy of the experimental outfit K. Wilhelm.
And one of the duet's latest songs, "Welcome to 'The Ridge,'" explores the poles of past and present, minimalist and stylized. Its first minute and a half sounds like an ambient composition filtered through a sieve of Sin Fang Bous and Erik Enocksson songs, but it becomes something much more intricate by the time a vocal melody floats into the mix.
"I like the idea of building the song up from the background, bringing up all these ambient sounds until the melody comes in and squeezing in lots of subtle details through the editing process," he says.
But it wasn't just sonic details that were added in and teased out: There are memories of Kruse's great-grandmother woven into the soundscape as well, particularly through the lyrics.
"The song's about us as kids digging holes in the sand down at 'The Ridge,' which is where she used to live," Kruse says.
However, it wasn't just any ridge: It was one that could fit right into the plot of Doctor Doolittle.
"'The Ridge' is short for, I kid you not, 'Goofy Ridge,'" he explains. "But the song is more serious than that, so I went with the nickname."
An MP3 of "Welcome to 'The Ridge'" is available in the related downloads section at right. More music by the band may be found on its MySpace page. Pushmi-Pullyu is performing with All Tiny Creatures at Café Montmartre on Thursday, May 14. Kruse and Murphy return to the stage for a party with Abiku, Loop Retard, and Screamin' Cyn Cyn & the Pons at the Glass Nickel on Monday, May 18, followed by a show with The Corduroys, So Many Wizards, and The Cutouts at the Frequency on Tuesday, May 19. Following a couple of house gigs, the duo will go on a summer tour around the Midwest in July.
MadTracks highlights and provides MP3s of songs performed by local musicians. All tracks here are provided with permission of the artist. If you are a musician based in the Madison metro area and are interested in sharing your work as a MadTrack, please send a message.