Sound engineers are often frustrated musicians, but instead of being grizzled and burned out, Dave Hidek is producing thoughtful and hopeful art-pop under the moniker The Worthy Ghosts.
A Pitt music grad, currently getting his master's in composition at Duquesne, Hidek is also the chief recording engineer at Turtle Creek-based Treelady Studios, where he crafts audio magic for alt-rock and folk artists such as Paul Luc and Autumn Ayers, with occasional sorties into jazz, Christian or hip-hop territory. Though he was briefly in a band called Atlas Bear in 2006, The Worthy Ghosts is Hidek's first solo attempt to unleash his Radiohead-esque tunes on the world.
"I appreciate the way [Radiohead] blend[s] organic sounds and digitally quantized computer sounds, ending up with an interesting hybrid of the two," he says. "That's something I aspire to -- incorporating acoustic instruments, and samples of those instruments, with sounds completely synthesized from various keyboards."
The result is a seven-song, self-titled debut EP that exemplifies Hidek's ambo-rock aesthetic on tracks such as "Things Flow Away" and "The Sleeping Tree" (which almost borrows the Coldplay "Talk" riff, itself lifted from Kraftwerk). As soon as the vocals kick in, though, some might feel broadsided by what appears to be (shudder!) AutoTune.
Hidek's vocal-altering technique is a bit more sophisticated than what you'd hear on the radio from Kanye West or T-Pain, though. "The program I use is called Melodyne, and there's nothing 'auto' about it -- I have to manually tweak everything. It's a cross between AutoTune and vocoding. The idea is that I like to be able to change the melody after I've sung it, and this makes it very easy."
Hidek adds that he approaches the style more from the Imogen Heap side of things than from a hip-hop perspective. Hence the inevitable question: If Heap can pull off her music live, when will we see a local Worthy Ghosts gig? Possibly by the end of the summer, he predicts. "If I did a larger venue, I could get the guys on the record to play with me, but I really have no problem with just samples and playback, doing a one-man band with my laptop."
In the meantime, there's a listening party at 8 p.m. on Sat., May 16, at The Space Upstairs above Construction Junction in Point Breeze. Hidek's friends in the Pillow Project dance company will perform to the music along with projections and lighting, and Paul Luc will play an opening set.
"It's more of a performance-art piece than a show," he adds. "The goal is to resurrect pop music and give it some melody again, instead of the cookie-cutter production prevalent in the industry."
For more information, call 412-225-9269.