Marbles is Robert Schneider of Apples in Stereo's solo project, and Expo marks the first full-length album since Schneider mothballed the name with the formation of the Apples in 1993. The m.o. is very Apples-like, with loads of their trademark catchy melodies, slightly trippy lyrics, swirling guitars, and sonic textures. But instead of the usual '60s psych-pop influences and song structures, ELO seems to be the major influence at work, with tracks like "When You Open" and the pulsating "Magic" sounding like an unlikely lo-fi Jeff Lynne project. The record is filled with vocoders, electronically treated vocals, cheap drum machines, tinny synths, and robotic beats. At its best on songs like "Move On" (wait for the moving guitar/synth duet at the song's climax) and the dreamy "Out of the Zone," the electronics are added somewhat organically and give Schneider's sometimes reedy vocals and simple songs a much-needed boost. A few of the songs don't work quite as well; "Circuit"'s vocoder and the song's nagging melody give the song an overly gimmicky sound, and the record's instrumentals ("Jewel of India," "Hello Sun," and "Blossoms") aren't of much interest. These are small flaws, and the strength of the rest of the record makes up for them.
The record was mixed by Mark Linnett of Beach Boys and SMiLE revisited fame, and he shows his versatility by creating a sound almost directly opposite to the lush SMiLE sound, instead making Expo sound like it was recorded in Schneider's sock drawer. In a good way, though. Like Guided By Voices, Marbles (and the Apples) work better when they sound small and full to bursting, and Expo is no exception to that rule. Apples in Stereo fans will dig this record.
In 1999, Collectables released Greatest Hits/Cherry Pink & Apple Blossom White, which contained two complete albums -- Greatest Hits (1990, originally released on Columbia) and Cherry Pink & Apple Blossom White (1961, originally released on Columbia) -- by Jerry Murad & the Harmonicats on one compact disc.
The two stellar reissues of collected Dockstader material on the Starkland label can be separated by their connections to light and darker material. As could be expected, Apocalypse concerns the darker edge. Both the 20-minute title track and the included 10-minute "Traveling Music" cultivate a series of chilling atmospheres with few precedents in the academic electronic community. "Traveling Music" does so with a series of clicks and chirps that gradually morph themselves into an undeniable air of menace while "Apocalypse" accomplishes the same with Forbidden Planet effects reminiscent of flying saucers and interstellar explosions plus a series of voice treatments that truly do sound as though they're of an alien nature. Also included on the same disc, "Luna Park" turns the laughter of vacationers into chipmunk-frequency effects processed with tremendous amounts of reverb and echo.