I.S.S. albums

I.S.S. - She's a Girl

Tim Smolens' I.S.S.

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Brand new! Buy the new I.S.S. album as download (mp3 or FLAC if requested) or shipped CD.

The 15 years later sophomore release from Tim Smolens' time-warping boy band, I.S.S., is partially an unapologetic homage to the Beach Boys lost 1967 masterpiece, "Smile," namely the principles of music composition and production discovered and implemented by Brian Wilson in the mid 1960’s.

"She’s a Girl" is a veritable journey through the cool sensibilities of 50’s barbershop quartet, contrapuntal doo-wop vocal harmonies, expansive song arrangements amply laced with half-diminished chords, lush 60’s orchestral pop productions in the vein of the Phil Spector/Brian Wilson famed "Wall of Sound," quadrupled bass (run through vintage tape echo), and echo chamber drenched percussion (castanets, tambourine, sleigh bells, hand clap, timpani, glockenspiel, etc.).

Not just a "Smile" homage, what I.S.S. album would be complete without some other-worldly improvised poetry and melodies by George Smith, who’s deep musicality and scathing, off-beat perspectives find a rare venue for their own sort of redemption? Not merely a savant of lyric/melodic improvisation, George is also a fantastic tunesmith in his own right, contributing two of his own depressingly sophisticated, bittersweet, transcendent tunes to the song cycle.

Special guest appearances by Timba Harris (Estradasphere, Secret Chiefs 3, Probosci, etc.) on violin/viola, Bär McKinnon (Mr. Bungle, Umlaut) on tenor saxophone, Luke Kirley on tuba/trombone, and Rory Reagan on drums.

Message from Tim:

"She’s a Girl" is a record I began writing in 2003 on the heels of the heartbroken, self-pity-fest of I.S.S.’s debut, "Forget about the Girl." In the subsequent years I have scarce found the time to begin this daunting recording, although I knew it was among the strongest material I'd penned. After unexpectedly facing imminent fatherhood in 2007, I was unable to maintain any hope of providing for my new family in the pathetic remnants on the outskirts of “the music industry” that I already resided. More than 12 years later, 2 kids, a transition to a more stable profession that allots more days off than days at work, and a relocation to gorgeous Colorado with a room in the basement for my small studio, I have finally returned to S.A.G. Somehow, the decade plus of musical inactivity has imbued these songs with a refreshing new life. The background vocal arrangements are more varied and colorful, the music production sounds more authentically 60’s, and the result is a more cohesive pop listening experience than I've been able to muster previously. It would seem the musical transcendence of "Smile" (and Brian’s 40 year struggle to manifest) affected me too, though I suppose getting off easy with only 10 years in the desert. - Tim Smolens

(for FLAC link, send email after download purchase and link will be sent)

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The S.A.G. Sessions

Tim Smolens' I.S.S.

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This would be 3 disc set is the complete virtual (download only) boxset companion for the new "She's a Girl," album containing all the nuanced instrumental backing tracks and the exposed background vocal harmonies that will add 3 hours of additional tracks and expose the sublime subtleties of the multilayered production. Buy this only if you have and like the official "She's a Girl" album and are interested in delving deeply into the production layers. Casual listeners need not apply.

Laid bare will be acapella 5+ part, contrapuntal doo-wop vocal harmonies, quadrupled tape-delay basses, heavy doses of echo chamber washed out wall of sound-style percussion (castinets, tambourines, sleigh bells, guiro, timpani, triangle, glockenspiel, celesta, organic mouth pops, etc.) harpsicord, wurlitzer, B3 organs, grand piano, and tight acoustic guitar accompaniment.

The listener will also be treated to the original demos of certain S.A.G. songs, some of them horrendous and embarrassing, but nonetheless imparting insight into the evolution of the songs. Of real value insight are extensive liner notes by Tim that contain in depth notes on each album track and insights into the box set tracks as well as lyrics and chord progressions for the entire record!

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Forget About The Girl

I.S.S.

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Allmusic.com review by William York

This self-described "time-warping boy band" I.S.S. is led by vocalist/songwriter/producer Tim Smolens, who is better known for his work as bassist in the genre-hopping Santa Cruz, CA, band Estradasphere. The quartet is rounded out by fellow vocalists (and occasional songwriters) Joey Ryken, Joel Robinow (Once and Future Band), and George Smith. The group's album art, lyrics, and overall musical approach are a mixture of homage and parody concerning the decades-long history of the boy band genre/phenomenon, from the Four Freshmen to the Beach Boys and on through more modern groups such as the Backstreet Boys. While on paper they may seem to possess the trappings of a mere novelty band, they surpass that sort of designation on the strength of their songwriting and musicianship; listening to them, it becomes immediately clear that they put a great deal of effort into their music and not just the concept behind it. I.S.S.'s songs are built around four-part vocal harmonies that are at times uncanny in their similarity to Pet Sounds/Smile-era Beach Boys (Smolens is a devoted, largely self-taught acolyte of Beach Boys mastermind Brian Wilson). I.S.S.'s debut album, Forget About the Girl, came out in 2002 on Mimicry Records, the label of Mr. Bungle/Secret Chiefs 3 member Trey Spruance and the home of Estradasphere's first few releases. Forget About the Girl included contributions from Smolens' brother, Doug Smolens, on drums, along with backing vocals and instrumental assistance by fellow Estradasphere members Timb Harris and John Whooley.

MIMICRY RECORDS review:

***The debut album from I.S.S., "Forget About the Girl," is an absolute breakthrough in the sadly decomposing genre of the "novelty" record. A self described "Time Warping Boy Band", ISS is shamelessly derivative, and very, VERY convincing. Now before you start to puke, stop to consider the fact that ISS have managed to re-inject the genre of the nefarious "Boy Band" with the magic and marvel it once knew with the Beach Boys and the Four Freshmen--this is definately NOT an exaggeration. Don't be expecting another half-assed imitation of Pet Sounds by some smug, irony-obsessed art-farts--ISS is the REAL DEAL! Tim Smolens (Estradasphere) is the main songwriter and producer behind ISS. His obsessive study of the harmonic elements of Brian Wilson compositions (and, shamefully, New Kids on the Block and the Backstreet Boys) meet up with his increasing skill in the studio environment to bear absolutely remarkable fruit. The psychedelic madness at the core of this "band" ends up drowned in such rich, full-bodied, fully-orchestral clarity & perfectly sung 5-part harmony that casual listeners would never suspect the psychotic subtext. The strict and crass realism in the rendering department only heightens the jarring transitions from 1968 to 1986 to 2002. To be sure, the historical persistence of the Boy Band and it's attendant cache of gooey love songs is given a ethnomusicologically exact tribute in ISS. But it's more than that. "Forget About The Girl" is an inspired and sincere labor of love. Hey man, I heard this one's for the ladies. Succeeds first and foremost in capturing hearts and ears of listeners. Now there's a concept. Boldly goes where mere piss-take efforts are too self-hating to explore. Nostalgic throwback to the "Age of Irony"? Culturecide with dumber lyrics but better music? Even smart girls can't resist four cute guys singing ultra-catchy love songs

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The F.A.G. Sessions

I.S.S.

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Available as an exclusive download here, this virtual session box-set is for real fans of the "Forget About The Girl" (FAG) album by I.S.S., the worlds first time warping boy band. Do you want to hear inner workings of this record, like orchestral backing tracks and soloed 5 part harmony? If not, stick to the standard album, do not buy this.

It wasn't until the release of the "Pet Sounds" box set, that we heard just how marvelous a well orchestrated instrumental backing track could be for a pop song. Often times, the over compressed, brightened for FM radio and doubled four part harmonies had a tendency to obscure the magnificent nuance of the instrumental track.

The "Forget About The Girl" album by I.S.S. is obviously based on a Pet Sounds type orchestration. Now, hear the bare vocal-less and vocals only tracks for the first time. Come see why this is the closest thing to the legendary 60's "Wall of Sound" in nearly 40 years. The confluence of organic instruments and layering of string sections, brass, pianos, guitar, quadrupled bass, whistle, organs, tape-delayed percussion, and real reverb pumped into a REAL chamber, makes for an unforgettable and classic sound. Unmasked are the painstaking labors that Tim endured.

The instrumental tracks also serve as nice karaoke for armchair singers out there!

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ESTRADSPHERE ALBUMS

The Pegasus Vault

Estradasphere

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This exclusive download-only EP is the companion to Estradasphere's "Palace of Mirrors" CD and "Palace of Mirrors Live" DVD, which brings the "Palace of Mirrors" era (and the band itself) to a stunning conclusion. One ought purchase this only if they love the "Palace of Mirrors" CD and desire to hear the twenty amazing tracks that didn't make the album.

After years of not fully living up to the potential they initially hinted at, Estradasphere finally went balls deep with the album "Palace of Mirrors,"and the subsequent Live DVD/film of the same name. The sheer volume of material they amassed for consideration that was ultimately rejected, is a testament to this fact. Hear it all here!

This download contains two separate products, 1) "The Pegasus Vault" EP and 2) the "Palace Era Compost Pile." Over an hour of new music in all, this release completes the "Palace of Mirrors" trilogy. At one time or another all the material here was destined for the "Palace of Mirrors" CD. You won't believe what got cut!

Included is an excellent PDF of liner notes, put together by Estradasphere's resident filmmaker Chip Yamada. There is a wonderfully poignant narrative running through "Palace of Mirrors" that is hinted at by the music, elucidated by the images projected in the "Palace of Mirrors Live" DVD, clarified by the short story leaflet inside the DVD (also included as a PDF in this download), and further expounded upon by the downloadable liner notes in "The Pegasus Vault." The depth and meaning present in the "Palace of Mirrors" narrative is something 95% of fans, and possibly even some of the band members have probably not even begun to scratch the surface of! So get reading, listening, and watching.

Additionally with this download you will get a funny and informative Palace of Mirrors tour journal included as a PDF, and "The Horse Coffin" short story that comes with the "Palace of Mirrors Live" DVD.

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Palace of Mirrors Live (audio)

Estradasphere

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Culled from what turned out to be their farewell tour (2006, Palace of Mirrors North American tour), herein lies eighteen songs and 2 hours and 21 minutes of Estradasphere truly firing on all cylinders for the first time in their decade of existence (better late than never). Not only do they perform "Palace of Mirrors" in it's entirety, with intriguing new sequencing alterations, but the consumer also gets the stunning "Opening Set," with renditions of songs from their diverse greater luminescent influences. From the transformed classical compositions of Chopin and Saint-Saëns, which invariably get the Estradasphere "metal treatment," to the cartoon jazz of Raymond Scott, selections from the film scores of Felini/Rota (Italy) and Hitchcock/Herrman, and a 30 minute version of old-school Esphere fan favorite "Hungerstrike," the "Opening Set" has something for anyone with an ear. The promise that Estradasphere initially hinted at with their debut (Its Understood), that many a WOMer was disappointed never seemed to materialize, is finally realized here, if not but for a brief moment in time before they abruptly disbanded. Estradasphere has never sounded better live and this is a MUST HAVE for all serious fans.

Included is a PDF of the original short story "Horse Coffin" that was originally included with the "Palace of Mirrors Live DVD," the story that the record is based upon.

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Live at the Blue Saloon (2003)

Estradasphere

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This 93 minutes of live Estradasphere is for dedicated (hardcore) collectors and fans who want to hear the original lineup freaking out live. Estradasphere went through various phases in the early years, most of which entailed highly structured, technically challenging music. Eventually the hippie pressure present in Santa Cruz became too much to bear and Estradasphere took a stab at incorporating more song structure improvisations ("hippie jamming") into the set, with varying degrees of success/failure. However, on this particular night at the Blue Saloon dive bar (who booked this gig?) in the Los Angeles valley, egged on by the earth shattering saxophone improvisations of John Whooley, THEY WERE ON! The renditions of their own songs on display here are rather unfamiliar, even to the band who is clearly making up the arrangement as they go. With the original formation of the band now relegated to recollected nostalgia, it is nice to have gems like this from the Estradasphere vault finally available to the fans!

Taped by the original Estradasphere taper Stephen Reysen, this show had many of what he would call "bust outs."

Mastered by Tim Smolens, 93 Minutes

Songs: Meteorite Showers --> Impressions --> Meteorite Showers --> Police Squad --> Ciocarlia,
The Dapper Bandits, Tuvanesque Song, Theme from Beverly Hills 90210, King Krab Battle, Turkish Techno --> Hot for Teacher (tease), Every Rose Has Its Thorn --> The Trials and Tribulations of Parking on Your Front Lawn,
Hungerstrike

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TIM SMOLENS

The Second Arrangement (Single)

Tim Smolens

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The Second Arrangement (Single)

Album download

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Brand New...but 40 years late! It’s the best never released song in “pop/rock” history. It’s a lost Steely Dan song, meticulously produced by Tim Smolens and Chris Bogen. Six months in the making and obsessively faithful to the late 70s analog aesthetic with all the right ingredients: sultry 3-part female background vocals, ripping disco funk bass lines, buttery smooth lead guitar, classy horn section, jazzy phased Rhodes piano, rock-solid drum grooves, and lead vocals by Tim Smolens worthy of respectful homage. Get 3 tracks in this download single, the official mix to ¼ inch analog tape, the instrumental version, the surprise alternate intro version, and Tim's personally transcribed chord/lyric chart.

The year was 1979. Steely Dan was working on Gaucho, the follow up to their landmark masterpiece, Aja. But many troubles were lurking, threatening to thwart the ambitious production. From bitter record company disputes, to serious health issues, worsening drug abuse, personal tragedies, and even musical tragedies. The crowning jewel of Gaucho was supposed to be “The Second Arrangement.” They had been toiling for months on it and completion grew near. One day an intern was asked to cue up the tape for the guys, but he inadvertently erased the master tapes. After attempting, in vain, to recut it, they eventually gave up on the song entirely. All that has ever leaked out is a poor quality, grainy cassette demo. Even from that, the excellence is evident. The lyrics contains typical Steely Dan characters. The narrator is a late 1970s, male, affluent, Caucasian, Southern Californian, adulterous douche bag, who gets caught having an affair with a mutual friend and kicked out of the house. The full glory of the finished product in high fidelity has never been heard by anyone......Until Now!!!!!

7-inch vinyl will be seasonally available, please email to express interest and help us anticipate demand. High Fidelity files (24/96 WAV, FLAC) available upon request by email.
Email: tim@timsmolens.com

Credits

Tim Smolens – Lead Vocals, P Bass, Transcription, Mixing, Keyboards, Horn arrangement, Mastering

Chris Bogen – Lead Guitar, Rhythm Guitar, Rhodes Re-amping

Matthew Kaminski – Fender Rhodes, Piano

Rory Reagan – Drums

Brooks R. Brown – Tenor and Alto Saxophones

Luke Kirley – Trombone

Aleisha Leo – Background Vocals

Kate Spencer – Background Vocals

Recorded at Poor Will Studios by Tim Smolens, Denver CO (except for Drums and Guitars)

Drums recorded at Colorado Sound Studios by Don Bearie, Denver, CO

Guitars and Rhodes Re-amping recorded at Pop Chew Key studios by Chris Bogen, the “Burbs” of New Orleans, LA

Mix to ¼ inch analog tape by Tim Dolbear at Ecelectica Studios, Nashville Tennessee Acknowledgements:

Marianella Ouellet, Cruz and Prisca Smolens, {Lacie, Melody, Amos, Rex} Bogen, James Wilkas, Brooks R. Brown, Matthew Kaminski, Rory Reagan, Kate Spencer, Matt Groves, Morcaiden, David Dines, Nik Snell, Jason Ursy, Chris Shipp, Jane Smolens, Al and Pam Bogen, Charlotte Brown

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