“… For every emotion we proclaim… there is another we are hiding.”
On Venice Boulevard, in a place where Culver City and Los Angeles neighborhood Palms touch, sits one of the most bizarre museums there is: The Museum of Jurassic Technology.
It’s a dark and complicated place founded by David Wilson, who Smithsonian Magazine says earned a MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” for his work underscoring “the fragility of our beliefs” and highlighting “the remarkable potential of the human imagination.”
It’s quite fitting the museum serves as a major source of inspiration for LA-based dark disco/synthpop duo Pr0files, who sent so far as to name their debut LP after it. Jurassic Technologie, coming out on Feb. 23, features 11 cuts that are just as curious and compelling, and dark and complicated, as the record’s namesake.
The duo of Lauren Pardini and Danny Sternbaum each drew different types of inspiration from the museum when they were crafting the songs.
“I went there on a profound date with my muse for this album and Danny went there with a great friend of his, upon my recommendation,” Pardini told Vehlinggo recently. “In the end, we lost each of those relationships — one, through [a] breakup, and Danny’s friend sadly is no longer with us. Now it carries those memories for us.”
They first just named a song after the museum, but eventually ended up naming their entire record after the “strange, dark place.” The museum has carpeted walls and the smell of incense, surrounded by a bunch of letters, jewelry, and furniture, among other things, and is overall “otherwordly,” Pardini says.
“I think being in love is otherworldly, so it really seemed natural to be inspired by this place,” she said.
So Many Lives
For two years, Pardini and Sternbaum worked on Jurassic Technologie (spelled that way as an homage to their French Touch influences). During that time, they slowly and occasionally released singles that would come to be a part of the forthcoming record.
They started out with “Call Yourself a Lover,” a rebuke of an inadequate love interest wrapped in a sexy slow burn and topped with a stratospheric chorus. They said the song was a high-point, because “we didn’t see the reaction coming.”
“The internet went crazy for it and we were genuinely surprised,” Pardini said.
Over time they released “Luxury,” “Forgive,” “Get It Up,” “I Know You Still Care,” “Empty Hands,” and most recently “Like a Knife,” all of which will be on Jurassic Technologie. Fans have streamed the songs many-thousand times, and various blogs and other music publications have lauded the cuts with their form of gusto.
Over the two years they wrote, recorded, and released the album’s cuts, they used different approaches to writing the songs, Sternbaum told Vehlinggo. Some songs Pardini wrote initially on a piano, others were written around tracks Sternbaum had already created, and some were a product of the pair’s collaboration for the entire lifecycle of the song, he said.
That all had an interesting effect on an album that neither of them were certain would come out as a cohesive collection.
“I definitely hear our songs and sound evolving throughout the album — which I didn’t expect to like — but it’s actually now my favorite thing about the record,” Sternbaum said. “It’s a really honest representation of us growing as a band, and I hope people that listen to the album appreciate this aspect of it as well.”
It’s also worth noting that to even get to a final version of a song, the pair put in the work. They recorded and produced everything themselves and frequently changed up the songs in a bid to find the right sound.
“A lot of these songs went through so many lives, and the high points for me were when we knew we landed on the right path with a song,” Sternbaum said. “… We tried as best as we could to make a record that drew from our favorite music of the 70s and 80s, while keeping it from sounding too retro.”
A Truly Compelling Record
The end result is fascinating and important. This is one of my favorite records of the past several years.
Jurassic Technologie follows a star-crossed relationship. Love songs like the bouncy “Luxury,” on which Pardini channels her inner-Channy, brush up against the biting, breakup-themed “Call Yourself a Lover.” Dance cuts like the dark disco “Get It Up” offer a dose of hope for the broken-hearted.
Also in there are some upbeat, but still bad-ass, stompers like the Kavinskyesque pairing, “Empty Hands” and “Forgive.” Both feature catchy synth expressions paired with Pardini’s soaring vocals — pipes that deftly deliver her particularly raw lyrics about love and loss and all things in between.
Somewhere in the mix is “Missing You Tonight,” a mostly instrumental number that evokes the same wistful sentiment as Daft Punk’s “Night Vision.”
“Like a Knife” is spectral night-disco, coming off like Pardini and Sternbaum tapped into the soul of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” and Chromatics’ Kill For Love album to craft a single song.
“Abuse U (Feel It)” is a cold, R&B slow dance for the emotionally-complicated set.
The instrumental title cut and the Brothertigeresque “Changing of the Guards” close out the record. Interestingly, these are fairly hopeful tracks.
True, Pardini’s lyrics on “Changing” seem to be a sober reflection on the cracked foundation of misaligned or mismanaged romantic relationships. Nevertheless, the instrumentation seems to show that Pardini and Sternbaum have shaken off much of emotional grime of the preceding songs and have some more room to breathe.
That’s my take, anyway.
What’s Obvious and What’s Hidden
All in all, Pardini says she hopes listeners catch on to the emotional and musical undertones at play on the record.
“I think for every emotion we proclaim in life, there is another we are hiding,” she says. “With anger comes hurt, with love may come fear… Look for that in this album — even in the mixes there are hidden noises and melodies.”
When she listens to Jurassic Technologie herself, the experience is less subliminal than it is merely a memento.
“It’s crazy,” she said. “There are things from the past I never think about anymore, but then I listen to the lyrics, such as ‘Now the room creaks like there’s someone here,’ on ‘Forgive,’ and I remember writing it.”
“I was sitting in my living room, singing at 3 a.m., and the roof was creaking, probably a small earthquake or something,” she continued. “I was miserably depressed and although I’m not there emotionally anymore, I hear the lyric and suddenly I’ll still get a pang in my heart. I’m OK with that. I’m happy now. But I’m not trying to escape the emotions I’ve experienced.”
From Bedrooms to Dance Floors
With that in mind, it bears considering how best to approach an album like this. I’ve described it as variously as something very close-to-the-chest and as something maximal.
Sternbaum shares my dualistic view of their creation.
“Since I was a kid, my favorite way to listen to a record has been on headphones, while lying in bed,” he said. “I know there are some songs on this album that would fit perfectly into a dance set, but overall it’s an intimate record with so many details that you can really hear with headphones on.”
For Pardini, if you’re in LA, it’s best to listen to Jurassic in the museum for which it’s named. Specifically, upstairs. Or, perhaps, while cruising on the 10 after 2 a.m.
Pr0files will play an album-release show at about 8 a.m. on Feb. 26 at the Lyric Theatre in LA. They will also be playing at We Found New Music’s SXSW showcase at 7 p.m. on March 16 at Speakeasy.
“There’s nothing we want to do more than tour,” Sternbaum said. “Now that we’ll have our album out, we’ll be pushing hard to make this happen. We’re excited to play some of these songs live for the first time, too.”
Order Jurassic Technologie from Pr0files’ Bandcamp. If you’re a cassette-minded soul, they’ve got you covered.
(Feature Photo credit: David Uzzardi.)