From Beyonce to Madlib, Garth Brooks to Mos Def, musicians love their aliases. For writer, musician and producer Kenneth James Gibson, this is a vast understatement.
Of the more than 13 different projects under his belt, 10 are solo acts produced under various guises, including [a]pendics.shuffle, Eight Frozen Modules, and Reverse Commuter, the latter of which returns today after a long absence with a new album of melodic, pulsating house- and techno-inspired electronic music, Exposure.
Gibson's breakthrough noise band, Furry Things, brought the El Paso, Texas native to Los Angeles for a second, lasting stay back in 1997. “I think most people move to L.A. to have some sort of idea of trying to be something. I never did that; I just always liked California,” says Gibson, who admits he was lured by televised images from CHiPs and Three’s Company, and the psychedelic musical history of Laurel Canyon. Now based in Montecito Heights, the fortysomething producer has created his own musical nexus simply within his own catalog.
Reverse Commuter has material dating back to a 2000 on the German City Slang imprint, but after early compilation work, and some differing views between artist and label, Gibson set Commuter aside to pursue other projects.
“It was easier to get so much stuff out under different monikers,” he explains, adding that fans often discover his work under multiple guises, only later realizing it’s the same creator.
Gibson, who also makes music for TV and film, continued to quietly record some Reverse Commuter sketches. Chris Milo (aka DJ Three) heard some of these demos and took interest. The Hallucination Limited founder commissioned a 2003 EP, The Direction, to a warm response. A full-length album was in order. “I always kind of saved that project for Hallucination,” says Gibson.
Beginning in 2007, he plugged away at what eventually became Exposure. The November 4 release and its label, now called Hallucienda, evolved in parallel during those nearly eight years. “The album went through a whole bunch of changes, as did the label,” Gibson notes, though he adds that in many places, those early sonic footprints and themes remain. Collaborators include Gibson’s wife Kelly Johnston, and Nitzer Ebb member Douglas J. McCarthy, who previously worked with Depeche Mode’s Alan Wilder in Recoil.
Nine tracks deep, Exposure delivers a heterogeneous blend of penetrating dance rhythms with strong vocals, between the temptations of “Still Voice Convincing,” and the poignant exit of “Give Me Once (24 Hours a Day),” built around a vocal sample that, for Gibson, sums up his feelings about the whole project: “It really rung true with me, and I got it. It represents the way that I felt over the last few years.”
With only a handful of Commuter shows over the last 15 years, Exposure honors its name — as dates are forthcoming. Gibson, who also just released an album, Slow Dawns for Lost Conclusions, with his psych-folk group Bell Gardens last week, shows the possibilities in dusting off a set-aside musical persona — even for an artist who already has more than enough aliases.