In 2008, the machine has become self-aware. Synth-and-keys duo Hyperbubble partially assembles its songs in the proud tradition, passed from Kraftwerk to Daft Punk, of musicians pretending to be robots. Unlike many of those bands, however, Hyperbubble’s Jess and Jeff DeCuir seem to be in on the joke, taking the android artifice to intentionally over-the-top extremes, then undercutting all the sci-fi hokum with flashes of genuine humanity.
“Welcome to the Hyperbubble late-late show,” says synthesizer player-vocalist Jeff, taking the stage at nearly 1:30 a.m. The show was running an hour behind schedule before the preceding band spent 30 minutes sound-checking, but this joke is the only indication he might be getting tired. From the first notes of opener “Mom Dad Unit” onward, he’s rocking out with near inhuman speed and efficiency, his hands blurring as he karate chops the synth keys in quick herky-jerks.
Though Jeff often runs his vocals through a digitized evil-computer filter, lead-singer-keyboardist Jess’s voice is too organic and expressive to be convincingly inhuman. She pauses every few minutes to strike unnatural vogue poses, but her stage presence is more often fluid and personal, providing a nice contrast to her husband Jeff’s mechanical-man shtick. While stone-faced Jeff fist-pumps, Jess wiggles out from behind her keyboard to dance with her back against him, or playfully slap him on the Ass-illator 5000.
And in a post-Matrix, post-9/11 world, the fiction of depicting a human as an unfeeling, immortal machine benefits from the meta glitches. “Leon,” a goofy ode to “close encounters of the kitty-cat kind” loses the joke when Jess adds, “and then she died,” and pouts. And the bit of hope betrayed in their voices when Jess and Jeff duet “we are the ninja kids, too young to die” cause the posturing on “Indoor Kidz” to ring deliberately false.
Then, Jess slumps over at the waist, mimicking a femme-bot, powered down. “That takes a lot out of you,” she says.