By Margaret Welsh
Pittsburgh Current Music Editor
Winter on Callisto, 1971
Andrew Kruske, the sole artist behind Chameleon Treat, describes Winter on Callisto, 1971 as “a sort of soundtrack to a non-existent film.” And there is a cinematic plot to the record: a man travels to space where — after years of isolation — he discovers a hidden civilization on the Jupiter moon Callisto. In order to be accepted into that society, he must access his creative side and reconnect with the things that inspired him as a child. Ultimately, it’s a story, Kruske says, about when things fall apart and having to rebuild from scratch. But, with it’s gentle, kaleidoscopic tones, Winter on Callisto, 1971 invites the listener to think not so much of personal disappointments and wrong turns, but of the possibility of seeing one’s life from a different angle.
The record’s retro futuristic aesthetic — fleshed out with synths, vibraphone, and marimba, among other instrumentation — brings to mind Jetson’s-style kitsch and high-contrast, alternately warm and cold (looking) 1960s movie sets. For me, the glittery instrumental opener “Invocation” brought to mind a similarly themed record, 1987’s Cave Valts on the Moon by composer Joanne Freeman. Written as a companion piece to a sculpture exhibit called “Artifacts from an Alien Civilization,” Freeman’s work is a speculative soundtrack to everyday extraterrestrial life.
Kruske share’s Freeman’s imaginative approach, and the conceptualization of space as a place one might like to stay. But while Winter on Callisto stretches out into soundscape here and there, it’s most definitely a pop album, anchored by solid song structure. Fans of lush mid-2000s indie rock bands like Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective, Dirty Projectors, etc. etc. etc. will likely find much to enjoy in this record’s blossoming complexity.