On “Octopus Tree,” a recent composition from Takoma Park musician Jason Mullinax, imagery and music come together in vivid harmony: Synthesizers undulate like an octopus’ tentacles, but they feel grounded — firmly rooted in a quarter-note beat.
As the song moves from polyrhythms to luminous ambient tones, it resembles a soundtrack to footage of an alien landscape. But Mullinax, 37, places his inspiration closer to Earth.
“A few years ago, my wife and I visited some friends in Oregon and they took us to see the famed Octopus Tree on the coast,” writes the composer and music instructor in an email. “It must’ve made an impression on me because I kept it in my head for a while, and knew one day I was going to use that name for something.”
“Octopus Tree” (listen below) is the first song recorded for Home World, Mullinax’s latest album and his first release under his real name. After two decades recording and performing as Pilesar, he decided it was time for a change.
“Pilesar had all this history and baggage associated with it,” Mullinax writes. “I wanted to free myself from all of that, so dropping the name seemed like the best way to go about it. In a way, it was like taking off a mask. I had the freedom to become the musician that I’ve always wanted to be.”
The change let Mullinax tighten his approach to music, too. “I noticed a lot of my earlier records were all over the map aesthetically, so I wanted to try to rein things in and focus on creating a mood or an idea that could sustain a whole album,” he writes.
The musician released Home World in August, posting it as a free download on Bandcamp. Now the prolific artist says he’s already working on his next few albums, some of which he plans to release in early 2016.
As trippy as Home World is, it’s not Mullinax’s most mind-expanding project. That would be his Music Discovery Lab, which he describes as “a workshop for kids, teens and adults that helps them explore the artistic potential of all sound.”
Mullinax wants to turn the Music Discovery Lab into a career.
“My goal is to make it a full-time job one day, going around to schools, throwing a bunch of toys on the floor and making a racket with all the kids,” he writes. “It’s a blast.”