“There’s this theory from surrealism about automatic writing, or automatism,”says Jacqueline Caruso, one half of the D.C. experimental synth-pop duo The Galaxy Electric. As she explains it, the idea of automatic writing involves letting yourself completely turn off your conscious mind and giving control of your creative process over to your subconscious. If you’re successful, she says, “you’ll actually reveal yourself… you’ll have something there.”
This theory of automatic writing drove the duo’s EP Tomorrow Was Better Yesterday, released in November of last year, moving away from a more “traditional” songwriting approach and embracing experimentation and improvisation. This process results in songs that are both intentionally constructed and organically evolved out of improvisation. “What we do now is record maybe 17 to 18 minutes of us improvising and chop it into three,” says Caruso’s partner Augustus Green.
Caruson notes that the EP explores a lot of cosmic themes, looking back to the excitement around space travel of the 1950s and ’60s, with Green citing the 1964 World’s Fair as a focal point for that excitement. “I’d say any time we go to play we have that in mind, the excitement that we try to bring,” he says. “The idea that anything is possible, crazy weird things that we’ve never seen, are out there to be discovered––we’re trying to create the soundtrack that invokes that sort of activity.”
Of course, outer space isn’t the only place suitable for exploration, and Caruso points out that much of her lyrical content––which is every bit as improvised as the instrumental parts––involves a much more personal kind of discovery. “I usually find that what I’m saying happens to be very deeply personal,” she says, “and a lot of that comes down to my journey from an abusive religion and abusive relationships and the gender roles that came out of that upbringing.”
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the new video for “Crystalline Glow,” a bonus track on the EP that is pure improvisation. Not having gone through the editing-down process that the rest of the EP went through, “Crystalline Glow” possesses a unique sense of immediacy. “It was written in that moment,” says Caruso. “When you’re watching the video, I’m thinking about and making those lyrics happen in that moment.” Not only that, but the “live” nature of the video provides an interesting look into Green and Caruso’s composing process. We see their metaphorical wheels turning as they push and pull, drawing us further into their space-age soundscape.
“It’s like The Magic School Bus,” Caruso points out. “We get into a spaceship and get inside our own minds.”
The Galaxy Electric plays their final D.C.-area show on Thursday at DC9 with Lake Ruth and we capillaries. 7:30 p.m. $8.