From Thomas Dolby:
I'm writing with a couple of pieces of very interesting news.
Firstly, I've decided to release the 'Oceanea' EP commercially--i.e. to make it available for sale from March 28th to non-FES members as a CD and via iTunes. This is because the music from the EP has been getting some radio play in the US and UK. Despite only being available to a limited audience, there seems to be a growing interest in my new music in the media and the public at large. And your response to 'Oceanea' has been so overwhelmingly positive. I've rarely seen so many superlative fan reviews of a release. I evidently struck a nerve with this one! It's all good news and I'd be foolish not to take full advantage of it.
But now here's something truly exciting and extraordinary. There's been a change of strategy with regard to the proposed 3rd EP from the upcoming album. I have said from the beginning that I wanted to let fans hear my work-in-progress on the new album 'A Map Of The Floating City' by releasing three EPs prior to the album coming out. Well, for 'Urbanoia' I have decided to go one better....
For the last six months, I've been developing an online multiuser event entitled 'The Floating City.' Call it a game, if you will, but it's nothing like a typical computer game--it's more like a FESmagical mystery tour. It will take place for twelve weeks leading up to the full release of the album this summer. A segment takes place in the continent of Urbanoia, and that's where the party will be at when I'm ready to debut the songs from that segment. So you won't need to buy a download of the 'Urbanoia' EP; but to hear it, you'll need to play the game and find your way to the party. And that will be an intriguing journey unlike anything you've experienced.
Imagine a curious, post-apocalyptic parallel world. In the wake of a terrible planetary catastrophe, a few stunned survivors cling to what's left of the Earth's major landmasses. Technology has imploded, and all that's left are strewn relics of a former age. Trying to escape the boiling temperatures, tribes of humans take to the oceans in the ghostly hulls of abandoned ships. With no fuel available to power them, the vessels are only able to move across the sea by 'rafting up'. Inevitably, gridlock forms, and the Floating City is born. A bizarre trading culture emerges. And the residents begin to piece together the dark history of what led up to the disaster that hit their civilization.
As a player in the game, you'll be using familiar media like web pages, social networks, linking up with your friends from Twitterand Facebook, to meet and collaborate with others to solve the enigma of The Floating City. This is not only for gamers--nor is it only for Dolby fans. It's an easy and fun way to explore and enjoy my music and lyrics from the early 1980s all the way up to the present day.
I'm extremely excited about this project, and it's very much an extension of the atmosphere and sentiments of the songs on the new album. There are excellent graphics, done by Paul Sizer who art directed the two EPs (that's his charred map fragment at the top of this message.) It also combines into a single framework the lyrics and music from my entire back catalog, going all the wayback to 'The Golden Age Of Wireless.' It's a natural extension of the eccentricity of The Flat Earth Society, where over the years the frequent digression into Dolby-related fanfiction has been inspiring and bewildering!
There's been a lot of talk about the album's 'hidden theme', going back to the 'Amerikana' EP release last year. I can reveal that both EPs to date, along with the 'Toad Lickers' iPhone app, have contained embedded clues that relate to the whole Floating City enigma. Up to now, no-one seems to have been able to solve the riddles. (I wonder why?) This game will bring all those clues together in a fascinating way. And yes, you will still be able to hear the 'Urbanoia' songs...if you and your friends are able to discover them within the game. And if it's not to your taste, don't worry because all the music will appear on the album when it comes out later in the year.
It is not a competitive game, per se, because it's not about individual prowess or high scores. No single player can 'win' outright. However, nine tribes will collaborate and match their skills to try to solve the mystery of the Floating City, using their knowledge and understanding of the music and lyrics. There will be rewards for all participants, including free music, merch prizes, and a sneak peek at the songs you haven't heard yet. And for the most industrious tribe, there will be a fabulous top prize: an invitation to attend an exclusive private concert at which my band and I will perform the album in full.
There's a press release coming out shortly that announces the 'Oceanea' EP and mentions the game in passing. But I wanted to make sure FES members heard it from me first!
All the best,