With his bushy mustache and tousled, dare we say, disregarded hair, Aaron M. Olson looks like a mad scientist. And he makes music like one, too. There’s a chemistry, even alchemy, to the sounds he’s created with his seven-piece ensemble, L.A. Takedown.
On that note, the cover photo of the new second Takedown album, “II,” is a little white pill pinched between a thumb and forefinger. And there is certainly an altered state aspect to these pieces, right from the sunlight-on-the water ripples of the opening prelude, “The First Thing.” On “Blue Skies (on Mars),” Olson and crew evoke that scene with elastic guitar lines that call to mind Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera.
Olson was born and raised in San Diego, studied classical music history and theory at San Francisco State, and then settled in L.A. For this music, he cites such disparate influences as King Crimson’s Robert Fripp, Nigerian AfroPop star King Sunny Ade and Japanese composer Tori Kudo. You also might hear the electronic atmospheres of Tangerine Dream or “Wish You Were Here”-era Pink Floyd to varying degrees. On one end of the scale, there’s a track called “Dose,” all drift and float.
On the other side, there’s an action-scene vibe. A lot of this has a soundtrack feel to it, even down to some of the titles. You can easily imagine “Bad Night at Black's Beach” behind a scene in an '80s Michael Mann thriller. In fact, L.A. Takedown was born a few years back to score a series of short films, with the results released on their self-titled 2015 debut. This second one sees the project expanded to a full band and wider scope, reflecting Olson's history and tastes.
If some of this, such as the pulsating “Night Skiing,” catches the ears of a few Hollywood directors, Olson’s next project might not be imaginary feature soundtracks.