You may not know the name Drew Andrews, but if you've been paying attention to music in San Diego for the past decade, you've likely seen or heard one of his bands. He played guitar in dream-pop outfit Via Satellite, and played guitar and keyboards in The Album Leaf. As of this year, he's also a published author, having just released his new short novel The Shepherd's Journals.
It's not entirely necessarily to be well versed in Andrews' past, but dive into On-Demand Living, the first album by his new band, Bit Maps, and you'll hear an atmospheric vibe similar to past projects. Immersed in a more heavily electronic style of music, On-Demand Living begins with an almost intro-like track titled "Cartridge Insert," which balances warm post-rock sounds with 8-bit chiptune effects and Andrews' robotic narration. It's just a small taste of the aural journey ahead, but it sets the tone nicely for Bit Maps' emotional cyborg pop.
The show doesn't really begin until the second track, "Everything On-Demand," in which a brief blip of video-game chirps segues into a more organic sounding track, albeit one that closely resembles Radiohead covering the dungeon music from The Legend of Zelda. Throughout the album, Andrews explores ideas of technology—and how people are both connected and kept distant because of it— through his lyrical content and through the odd but fluid juxtapositions of digital and analog sounds. The first line on the album is "You get the best of me, taking cues from a camera feed," and there's an ongoing sense of melancholy that pervades this exploration of interconnectedness, and lack thereof.
Lyrically, there's a lot to unpack for those who care to analyze it, but it's just as easy to let the sounds of the record take over. Andrews has a history of playing in bands where atmosphere is just as important as songwriting, and Bit Maps is no different. "Reputations" is a lush pop song built on heady synthesizers and shimmering Rhodes piano. And "Contexts" features some gorgeous guitar licks to go with the keyboard backing. It's a digital album with an organic heart—or is it the other way around?