Have you ever had the sinking suspicion that perhaps we’re living in a computer simulation? That’s exactly the kind of unnerving existential reckoning Bethesda’s BADTHRVW (pronounced “bad throw”) is trying to induce with experimental whirs and blips.
“We’re definitely inspired by not quite conspiracy theories, but, like, ideas about how the universe is really structured. … Not necessarily conventional ideas, but …” Alex Bloch starts.
“… These crazy-sounding alternative theories,” Chris Ossi says, finishing the thought.
The two are clearly in sync — the University of Maryland students have known each other since their days at Thomas W. Pyle Middle School in Bethesda, Maryland. Together, they take listeners on a wordless deep-dive into the abyss. On their debut EPs, Examining Interiors and Exteriors 1 and Examining Interiors and Exteriors 2, released July 26, haunting, detached mumbles lurk below unhuman echoes.
Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that Ossi is studying electrical engineering and Bloch is studying computer science. Some of BADTHRVW’s instruments are homemade digital noisemakers involving contact microphones on metal objects, or electronics that have been modified. An Akai MPX16 sampler and a MicroKorg synthesizer round out the kit.
They call their sounds “audio graffiti.”
“It’s kind of like a sound installation. Except, you know, nobody commissioned it,” Ossi says. It’s “drone-y, atmospheric stuff that’s [meant] to create a kind of sensation or atmosphere.”
The lack of lyrics in any of the recordings — most of which are more than 20 minutes in length — contributes to an overall sense of detachment from the physical world. It’s both ethereal and ominous.
The music “does make you a little uncomfortable, it makes you a little on edge,” Ossi says. “It takes you out of a place where you feel very comfortable and familiar and puts you somewhere else.”
But don’t go to their live performances expecting a straight performance of their recordings. Their shows rarely follow a set pattern and are tailored to the vibe of the venue.
“It’s heavily improvised,” Bloch says.
And like the expanding universe that we all inhabit, BADTHRVW’s catalog will continue to grow: Bloch and Ossi say they’re working on another EP.
BADTHRVW plays Aug. 5 at The Dump in Bethesda.