Arts Desk

Bluebrain? There’s an App for That

Arts Desk occasionally crushes on Bluebrain, the electro-pop duo of brothers Ryan and Hays Holladay, but for good reason—they're pretty damned clever. In our inbox earlier this week we found an announcement of their latest project, another venture blending their catchy beats with the digital frontier. Bluebrain's newest mindfuck requires two trips—one to the National Mall, and another to Apple's iPhone App Store.

Bluebrain has experimented with iPhones before, memorably at a show last July at the Fridge during which audience members who downloaded the audio-manipulation program TouchOSC could contribute to that evening's soundtrack. The National Mall, due out in a few weeks as a free download from the App Store once all the programming is tweaked, is of another sort. The new album—to use the word loosely—is billed as the first "location-aware" album. As Ryan Holladay explains it, the app will use an iPhone's GPS function to determine the listener's location on the Mall and play a corresponding piece of music. Bluebrain divided the entire 1.9-mile span of the Mall into hundreds of "zones" and associated each with one of the hundreds of tracks they laid down over the past few months at their Iguazu studio in Arlington.

"It's a choose-your-own adventure of music," Ryan Holladay says. A Mall visitor walking from, say, the Air and Space Museum to the National Gallery of Art will have a different sonic experience than someone jogging between the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. Bands have used the App Store to release music since the platform's debut in 2008, but Bluebrain's National Mall is novel in that it bends, if not altogether breaks, the linear nature of music. "If we're writing something for someone walking from point A to point B," Holladay adds, "we also had to make it work for someone going in the opposite direction." And much like bonus tracks on a physical LP, The National Mall may feature songs written for pockets off the Mall, including the Jefferson Memorial and Tidal Basin.

Visually, The National Mall will present a stylized map of the area designed by Danny Jones of the Florida art collective YASLY rather than the standard embedded Google Maps used in most iPhone applications with GPS functions. It's also the first of three planned location-aware albums. Prospect Park in Brooklyn is next; the third—and most ambitious—is California State Route 1, a 655-mile road stretching from Orange County to wine country, though Holladay admits a project based on a highway will probably have to be a bit more linear.

Bluebrain performs Saturday, April 2, at 7:30 and 10 p.m. at the Artisphere, 1101 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington. Sold Out. (888) 841-2787

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