Review by Jason Croft
There was a time when the haunting sounds of the theremin were relegated to B-grade sci-fi or horror movies. It was the sound of the spaceship landing or the undead creature rising from the grave. As instruments go, the theremin has always been seen as a novelty,a freak of the instrument world. Its unworldly tone and ghostly voice have caused the instrument to be marginalized, but throughout its history, the theramin has found home with lounge-type music. It was a perfect fit for the era of hi-fi space age pop. Take for example the classic early Les Baxter album Music Out Of The Moon, featuring the theremin mastery of Dr. Samuel Hoffman. Nothing hints at the 1950s vision of outer space like the theremin.
Still, the theremin never found its place within the world of “legitimate” music. The San Fransciso-based band Project:Pimento is trying to change that. They have exploited the potential of theremin to create a wonderful smoky cocktail lounge vibe. In Magical Moods of the Theremin (Tru Blu Lu Records), Project:Pimento takes the instrument into the realm of bossa nova (with the tunes “Agua de Beber” and “Call Me”), exotica (“Caravan” and “Bali Ha’i”), crime jazz (Peter Gunn), and even rock (“Black Magic Woman”). Mixed with the theremin are the haunting vocals of Miss Lola Bombay, a.k.a. Lori Carsillo. At times the theremin sings in harmony with the vocals; other times it takes center stage.
Throughout the album, the theremin weaves in and out of each melody giving new life to what could have been a stale set of standards. But, Magical Moods of the Theremin is not without flashes of humor. The band opens up and seems to have a lot of fun with their version of the Star Trek theme, complete with Gene Roddenberry’s horrible lyrics. Overall, listeners will hardly believe the theremin could be used to make such cool music. Project:Pimento has set a new standard for this black sheep of the instrument family. Here’s hoping their brand of theremin swankness sticks around for a long, long time.
Hear samples off of Project Pimento’s new release at Java’s Bachelor Pad, home base of reviewer Jason Croft.