With the COVID-19 pandemic decimating his performance schedule, Pierre Simard has been occupying his time indulging his “darker side.”
For the past five years the Vancouver Island Symphony artistic director and conductor has been quietly releasing electronic music online under the name Plan Omega, much to the bemusement of his family and friends on social media.
“They saw that as this weird, ‘Oh, OK, Pierre has a split personality problem here. He thinks he’s an electronic musician,’” Simard said.
As “a child of the ’80s,” his inspirations include German electronic group Tangerine Dream, the soundtrack from the film Blade Runner and video games. Simard performed some of his electronic music onstage as part of the 2017 VIS concert Inventions and on March 5 he releases his latest EP, Plandemic, its title a portmanteau of ‘Plan Omega’ and ‘pandemic.’
“Now I have a few things under my belt … this time around, yes, I will put that EP out on all the platforms – Spotify, Apple Music – as a normal pop artist would do,” Simard said. “I’m going to make a bit more fanfare about this EP.”
The record is in the style of ‘synthwave,’ which Simard describes as “a subgenre in electronic music that embraces the aesthetics of the ’80s and tries to recreate the sounds and the art from that period.”
“I started exploring the synthwave thing about two years ago. It’s fun, it’s easy, I find for me it has a resonance in my own past,” he said. “So I said, ‘Let’s just embrace what’s happening and make an EP around this theme of the pandemic.’”
On the EP Simard relates each of the compositions to COVID-19, with each song having “a musical aspect tied to a pandemic concept.” For example, on the track Flattening the Curve he makes use of descending sounds to put a “musical weight on an abstract pandemic curve.”
Simard makes the music on his computer using keyboards, software synthesizers and sample banks. He said the tools available today have made access to music composition universal and have accelerated people’s musical output.
“In the last years you’ve seen the development of those digital audio work stations and it’s amazing,” he said. “It’s really incredibly powerful and it’s incredible the results you can get just being in your studio in your bedroom.”
The first two singles from Plandemic are available here.