Ponytrap's Robots Pound Out a Promethean Waltz at the Paramount
How do husband and wife duo Hilary & Quentin make music with robots?
By Wayne Alan Brenner,
11:00AM, Wed. Jan. 20, 2016
Their names were Hilary Thomas and Quentin Oliver, and then they got married, and now their names are Hilary & Quentin Thomas-Oliver.
But they’re also known, when they’re performing music, as Ponytrap.
But they’re not alone when they’re performing as Ponytrap. They’re not alone, but there aren’t any other people in the band.
There aren’t any other animals – human or otherwise – in the band, either. No ponies, for instance.
What there are in the band, besides Hilary and Quentin Thomas-Oliver, are robots.
Ponytrap has an array of custom-built machines that drum, yes – but they’re not drum machines. They're servo-mechanisms of various shapes and sizes that use actual sticks to pound on actual drums (or modified buckets), and some of these servo-mechanisms, these robots, look like drum-headed steel racks from some weird sci-fi nightmare Keith Moon might’ve had after a night of too much something, and some of these robots – at least one of these robots, the ten-foot-tall one – definitely looks more like a classic robot, more imposingly anthroform.
Like a big, metal, hyperkinetic, drum-studded Wicker Man is what it looks and sounds like, actually.
Also? It’s fucking impressive.
“And they read music,” Quentin tells me while Hilary hands out band stickers during their appearance at The Thinkery. “We don’t program the drums,” he says. "We write the music, feed that into the system, and the robots play according to the music we’ve written.
After I tell you that Ponytrap – with Hilary on cello and Quentin on viola and various robots (including that big one) thundering out the beats – will be performing live on the Stateside at the Paramount stage this Sunday … after I remind you that the name of the show is Promethean Waltz and it's being presented by the progressive audio fomenters of Voyager Fest … let me tell you how unnervingly good they sound.
“Industrial Music for Modern Primitives” is the slogan on the band’s website. But, if industrial music might (for some unfathomable reason) scare you away, don’t let that slogan scare you away. Remember the viola and the cello. And know that what Pony Trap engages in is a sort of perfect marriage of classical and industrial sounds – strings and percussion, after all – such that people who usually prefer classical or people who usually prefer industrial can both groove to and be thrilled by the sonic glories emanating from the Paramount stage.
[Note: They'll be performing original Ponytrap compositions and a few covers, for maximum impact.]
So, yes: It’s some beautiful, powerful stuff, music-wise. It’s something you’d want to download just to hear it, regardless of the visual spectacle in which it’s made. Now imagine being at the Paramount on Sunday night and witnessing Hilary and Quentin and an array of robots playing it right there in front of you, and you’ll be like, “What do you mean, regardless of the visual spectacle, this whole show is phenomenal!"
And, as if that weren’t enough, the entire thing will be enhanced with video projection from the talented designers of Recspec.
I know, right?
Look, here’s just a little sample from Ponytrap’s YouTube channel, a video of Quentin and a couple of the robots rocking variations on Ministry’s "Just One Fix."
Indeed, citizen, we’ll see you at the show on Sunday!