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Patrick Watson’s Piñata Shop-Rocking, Musical Mad Science

The New Now

"Patrick Watson is a musical mad scientist." So begins the California-born, Montreal-based musician's official bio, which I would normally dismiss out of hand as some record company-generated hype. But I've seen the seen the future of musical mad scientists and his name is Patrick Watson. Strangely enough, that's also the name of his band, although more recently they've been called Patrick Watson & the Wooden Arms. The latter part of that moniker is also the title of the combo's recently released album.

Watson and his bandmates-percussionist Robbie Kruster, guitarist Mishka Stein, and multi-instrumentalist Simon Angell--have been known to turn making their albums into musical adventures. With that in mind, my friends over at Yahoo! Music thought it would be a good idea to take the musical mad scientists out of their laboratory and stick them an unfamiliar environment. Check out what happens when Watson and company were transported to a piñata shop in downtown Los Angeles and set free to experiment with a bowed saw, acoustic and electric guitars, a megaphone backpack contraption, and a bin full of beans in this performance of "Hearts In The Park," a bonus track from Wooden Arms.

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After watching that incredibly inventive and haunting performance, you're probably wonder who the hell these guys are and what exactly is that thing ol' Pat has on his back. Rather than rattle on endlessly in text, I'll share this video interview with Patrick and Simon Angell--with whom Watson has collaborated with since they were teens--and allow them to explain it all. Check it out.

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What you might not know is that Watson's musical experimentation isn't limited to the live setting. In fact, Wooden Arms is filled with unconventional homemade instrumentation, including bicycle parts, wine bottles, and foley effects similar to those used in old cartoons and episodes of the Twilight Zone. "We wanted to create folk science fiction music, like in The Twilight Zone, where there's a normal situation with a twist," Watson recently explained. "There should be an innocence to it, a sense of a humble, grounded story with a subtle twist." I don't know about you, but I think Watson and company more than captured that Twilight Zone-like feeling with the eerie sound of that bowed saw. Adding to the otherworldly quality of the music is Watson's ethereal vocals, that at times recall Rufus Wainwright, Antony Hegarty of Antony & the Johnsons, Sufjan Stevens, and Grant Lee Phillips, but don't sound exactly like any of them.

The great thing about Watson and company's found-sound approach is that it makes the band incredibly versatile as the performance below demonstrates. "Big Bird In A Small Cage," another song from Wooden Arms, sounds almost like a traditional folk song with its mix of banjo and acoustic guitar, but Kuster's percussion on pots and lids to give the tune that left-field element that makes it all the more compelling. Check it out and let me know if you think Watson's musical experiments are a success and tell me who are some of your favorite musical mad scientists.

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