floating

Thomas Dolby's first new studio album in 20 years

Thomas Dolby, the iconic ’80s star whose smash hits “She Blinded Me With Science” and “Hyperactive” helped define the MTV generation/revolution, will break his 20-year silence with a new release later this year titled A Map of the Floating City. The album, featuring appearances by special guest artists Mark Knopfler, Regina Spektor, Natalie MacMaster, Bruce Woolley and Imogen Heap, will be available on October 25, 2011 on Lost Toy People Records as a regular and hi-res download, as a physical CD, and in a special Deluxe Edition featuring a second disc of instrumentals and bonus tracks.

The five-time Grammy®-nominated British artist quit the music business in the early ’90s and spent many years in Silicon Valley, where his tech company Beatnik Inc. created the ringtone synthesizer embedded in more than three billion mobile phones shipped by Nokia, Motorola, Sony Ericsson and others. Now retired from Beatnik, Dolby has returned to his native U.K. and is busy recording an album of brand new songs in a renewable energy-powered studio he built aboard a 1930s lifeboat in the garden of his beach house on England’s North Sea coast.

Of the album, which is divided into three parts, Dolby says, “The new songs are organic and very personal. A Map of the Floating City is a travelogue across three imaginary continents: In Amerikana I’m reflecting with affection on the years I spent living in the U.S.A., and my fascination with its roots music. Urbanoia is a dark place, a little unsettling . . . I’m not a city person. And in Oceanea I return to my natural home on the windswept coastline.”

“I marvel at the new landscape of the music business — distribution via the Internet and recording technologies I barely dreamed of when I started out,” he continues. “But this album does not sound electronic at all. I have zero desire to add to the myriad of machine-based, synth-driven grooves out there. The Net has made a music career approachable for thousands of bands — but I hear too few single-minded voices among them, so I’m returning to what I do best, which is write songs, tell stories.”

To help tell his stories, Dolby has enlisted an impressive cast of guest musicians. Legendary guitarist Mark Knopfler helps drive the epic “17 Hills,” a song about a pair of hapless lovers and a jailbreak. Natalie MacMaster, the Cape Breton fiddler, adds spice to two songs. Scottish singer Eddi Reader takes a front seat on the ethereal “Oceanea.” Bruce Woolley (Camera Club) plays theremin. And Regina Spektor has a cameo as an East European waitress on “Evil Twin Brother.”

The innovative transmedia game The Floating City, co-created by Dolby and based on his song catalog all the way back to the 1980s, is currently in full swing and is proving highly addictive for thousands of regular players. The winning “tribe” will be treated to a private concert performance of the new album in its entirety. Thomas Dolby will shortly announce a string of concert dates in the U.S. and U.K. in support of the album.

Thomas Dolby debuts 'The Floating City' transmedia game

Best known as the singer/synthesist behind the Top 5 smash hit “She Blinded Me With Science” and as the co-inventor of the Beatnik polyphonic ringtone engine, Thomas Dolby today announced his latest creation: The Floating City is a rich transmedia game with a living world that changes and reacts to player contributions. It uses web browsers, social networks, and even smart phones and iPads as a way for fans to access his latest musical endeavors.

The Floating City is open for registration from today at floatingcity.com. Gameplay commences on June 22nd at 5 p.m. GMT (1 p.m. ET in the U.S.). Players from around the world will form tribes and collaborate to earn free music downloads, merchandise and concert tickets. The leading tribe will even win the right to stage a private concert at which Thomas Dolby and his band will perform his forthcoming album in its entirety.

Completely free to the public, The Floating City is a casual game that hooks you into building a whole story world with your tribe — as deep as you want to go. It runs on a standard web browser, smartphone or iPad without additional software installation. It is targeted at players of all ages, regardless of whether they are familiar with Thomas Dolby’s catalog. But diehard fans of the five-time Grammy™-nominated songwriter will be delighted to find that The Floating City integrates characters, places, and objects named in every one of his albums going back to the beginning of his career . . . and before.

The Floating City is set against a dystopian vision of the 1940s that might have existed had WWII turned out a lot differently,” says Dolby. A global energy experiment went haywire, the Earth’s magnetic fields have been reversed, and the planetary climate system violated. Science has betrayed us: now what must the species do to survive?

Survivors explore a fictional Google map, forming tribes and trading relics amidst a bizarre sea-going barter society. As they struggle to unravel the enigma that is The Floating City, players can haggle over merchandise and music downloads — including brand new songs from the much anticipated CD A Map of the Floating City, Dolby’s first album in 20 years, which will be released following the climax of the game.

“This is a brilliant concept,’ said writer/economist Steven Levitt. “It’s a cross between Freakonomics and Burning Man, with a back-story that would have made J.G. Ballard proud.”

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About Thomas Dolby

Thomas Dolby became a huge star in the ’80s when his songs “She Blinded Me With Science” and “Hyperactive” topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart and were on constant rotation at MTV. His unique keyboard playing led to guest performances with the likes of David Bowie (Live Aid), Stevie Wonder (Grammy™ awards) and Roger Waters (The Wall) and he became a top producer, garnering five Grammy™ nominations.

Dolby abandoned the music business in the 1990s to found Beatnik Inc., a Silicon Valley tech company that built the ringtone synthesizer embedded in over 3 billion mobile phones worldwide. Now retired from Beatnik, he has returned to music and has been completing his first studio album in more than 20 years.

The Floating City game consolidates Dolby’s reputation as one of the foremost pioneers of electronic alt-culture. On hearing of the game, counter-cabaret diva Amanda Palmer commented: “Thomas Dolby is to Steampunk what Iggy Pop was to Punk!”

Thomas Dolby's 'Oceana' breaks 20-year silence

Reclusive solo artist Thomas Dolby is preparing to break his 20-year silence with a brand new studio album, A Map of the Floating City, due out this summer. But first, on March 28, Thomas is releasing Oceanea, a three-track EP filled with soaring melodies, intriguing storytelling and vividly cinematic textures. Featuring guest vocals by Eddi Reader, Oceanea sees a return to Dolby’s melodic and atmospheric roots. “The new songs are organic and very personal,” explains Dolby. “The songs on Oceanea are a reflection of my natural home on the windswept English coastline.” These days he writes and records aboard a solar and wind-powered 1930s lifeboat in the garden of his beach house in East Anglia.

Now living back in his native U.K. after 25 successful years in the U.S., Dolby is busy completing A Map of the Floating City, which features appearances by special guest artists Mark Knopfler, Regina Spektor, Eddi Reader, Natalie MacMaster, Bruce Woolley and Imogen Heap. Says Thomas, “This album does not sound electronic at all. I have zero desire to add to the myriad of machine-based, synth-driven grooves out there. What I do best is write songs, tell stories.”

Thomas Dolby’s impressive recording and production career now stretches over 30 years. His commercial breakthrough came with the 1982 release of his very first album, The Golden Age of Wireless, which featured the hit “She Blinded Me With Science.” Go back a year and Dolby’s innovative synthesizer work was already making its mark: Foreigner’s massive hit single “Waiting for a Girl Like You” with its weaving synth intro — Dolby’s work. Cue 1983 and Thomas Dolby is guesting on Def Leppard’s Pyromania album. In the same year he appears as producer for U.S. rap wonders Whodini, who release an absolute B Boy classic with “Magic’s Wand.” 1984 saw the release of Dolby’s second album, the expansive masterwork The Flat Earth, which alongside Talk Talk’s Colour of Spring (1986) raised the artistic bar considerably. The Flat Earth featured Dolby’s biggest single success, “Hyperactive!,” a fine piece of pop-art funk that was originally written for Michael Jackson. (It still sounds like the eccentric English cousin of Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit.”) The 12” released in the U.K. on the collectable Parlophone Odeon label is treasured amongst beat-head DJs.

From 1985-1992, Thomas Dolby released two more albums — collaborating with George Clinton on the bold Aliens Ate My Buick and 1991’s Astronauts and Heretics, which featured Grateful Dead supremo Jerry Garcia alongside Siouxsie and the Banshees’ Budgie. In addition to his solo output, Dolby produced Prefab Sprout (the classic Prefab albums Steve McQueen and Jordan: The Comeback), Joni Mitchell (Dog Eat Dog), appeared with David Bowie at Live Aid, was part of the all-star cast in Roger Waters’ 1990 “The Wall: Live in Berlin” concert, and performed at the Grammys® with Stevie Wonder and Herbie Hancock.

Dolby quit the music business in the early ’90s and spent many years in Silicon Valley, where he founded tech company Beatnik Inc. and co-invented the polyphonic ringtone synthesizer embedded in more than two billion Nokia mobile phones. In 2001 he became Musical Director of the TED Conference, an annual event in Long Beach, California that attracts some of the world’s foremost thinkers, inventors, and speakers. In this capacity he provides live musical introductions to sessions, sometimes with an eclectic TED House Band, as well as helping secure guest musicians and entertainers for the event. At last year’s conference, Dolby was joined onstage by David Byrne for an inspiring performance of Talking Heads’ “(Nothing But) Flowers.”

Following his involvement in Beatnik Inc., Dolby returned to his musical career and the live arena in 2006. Dates in the U.S., an appearance at O2 in Hyde Park, and a triumphant night at London’s Scala reaffirmed this performer’s importance on the big stage. A 2007 appearance at America’s SXSW festival was followed by a string of further U.K. shows and in 2009 EMI released The Singular Thomas Dolby, which brought together all of Thomas’s great singles on one ace compilation. In 2010 Dolby released Amerikana, a download-only EP exclusive to his online community, The Flat Earth Society. A particular highlight is the richly atmospheric “17 Hills” featuring some virtuoso guitar from Mark Knopfler. Along with Oceanea, these EPs help consolidate Dolby’s fanatical online fan base while previewing music from his upcoming album.

Thomas Dolby has created a further way for fans to get early access to his new material in the shape of an extraordinary social network-based game, The Floating City, to be launched this spring via Facebook, Twitter, and The Flat Earth Society. By building a post-apocalyptic, barter-based trading culture around the objects and places named in Dolby’s songs, solving puzzles related to his lyrics, and discovering clues embedded in unique remixes, players will be able to win a sneak peek of other new songs from the album, as well tickets for a private one-off concert this Summer at which he will perform the new album in its entirety.