Hovercraft Take Flight With Sensory Experiment

On new album, Seattle group uses sounds to trigger sensations and prod the unconscious mind.

To some, it might seem odd that a band on a mission to remove all concrete themes and

perspectives from its music would make a pointed political statement by playing a Voters

For Choice abortion-rights benefit.

Seattle-based Hovercraft are a group so hell-bent on ambiguity that they shun not only

lyrics, but also their real names, and only begrudgingly title their own songs, such as

those on their upcoming second release, Experiment Below (Sept. 22).

But the Voters For Choice event -- a theater gig with Pearl Jam in Washington, D.C.,

planned for Saturday (Sept. 19) -- is actually complementary to the Hovercraft mission,

guitarist Campbell2000 said. Both the pro-choice stance of the concert and the group's

music are grounded in a refusal to compromise values, be they political or musical.

"I think everyone should stick to their guns," said Campbell, who, when pressed, reveals

his given name only as Ryan. "If they have something they believe in, they should fight

for it."

With Experiment Below, Hovercraft fight to present the listener with a soundscape

utterly devoid of sloganeering, symbolism or characters. It's a battle they win, hands

down. The album's seven tracks primarily serve as jumping-off points, sonic stimuli that

are only truly whole when the listener completes them with his or her own interpretations

and reactions.

In that way, songs such as

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Hovercraft/Endoradiosonde.ram">

"Endoradiosonde" (RealAudio excerpt) are invitations to escape -- not in the

sense of flight, but of discovery.

"It's about exploring the unconscious mind," said bassist Sadie7, also known as Beth

Liebling, the wife of Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder. "I think there's a lot of

overstimulation every day; things coming at you that you have no control over. We can

be in your unconscious mind. We're trying to get closer to what a dream-like state could

be."

The 5-year-old Hovercraft, which also include new drummer dash11, attempt to create

the same ethereal atmosphere in their live shows by incorporating film collages into their

performances. Their upcoming U.S. tour will feature three montages, including one new

film and reworked versions of the pieces they brought out in support of their first album,

Akathisia (1997). The films are part of a total package that also features a sound

system cranked well beyond the limit in order to bounce physical vibrations throughout

the room.

"Live, it's the culmination of all that: physical, visual, aural," Campbell said. "We feel most

comfortable on that aesthetic. When you're recording, you have to figure out a way to

translate it to a hundred different settings."

On Experiment Below, an integral part of the translation involves using sounds to

create a range of sensations.

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Hovercraft/Anthropod.ram">"Anthropod"

(RealAudio excerpt), for example, is nearly tangible. Tinkling guitars prick at the listener's

skin and waves of distortion envelope him or her in a warm blanket. Other effects are so

fluid that the listener can almost feel them washing over the tongue, while others are so

scratchy as to scrape the flesh abrasively.

"We get inspired by sounds that come from the things that are around you, not

necessarily just traditional chord progressions," Sadie said. "There's always planes

going over your head, or trains going by. They're tactile things that make you feel things

when you experience them in daily life."

Like standard chord progressions, traditional spoken language is also seen by

Hovercraft as a confining element. While Campbell says it would be possible for the

group to even eschew titles for its songs, tracks such as "Benzedrine" and "Epoxy" have

handles for reasons other than the words' literal meanings.

"The same way we like certain sounds, we like [the sound of] certain words," Sadie said.

"The titles don't necessarily have anything to do with interpreting the music."

The bassist cautioned fans against interpreting the Voters For Choice gig in relation to

Hovercraft's music as well, other than in terms of the members' unflinching support for

both endeavors.

"Our music isn't tied to that cause in any way," she said. "It's more that we're going to

play the show and donate money to something that we personally believe in ourselves.

But it doesn't have anything to do with what we do creatively. More than anything else,

it's a tribute financially to other people who are doing things for that cause."