FIONA APPLE: Pure Imagination

RELATED: Created in collaboration with Chipotle Mexican Grill, “The Scarecrow” is an arcade-style adventure game for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch and a companion animated short film. Both pieces depict a scarecrow’s journey to bring wholesome food back to the people by providing an alternative to the processed food that dominates his world. The film’s soundtrack is a re-interpretation of “Pure Imagination,” performed by Fiona Apple. The film is set in a dystopian fantasy world where all food production is controlled by a fictional industrial giant Crow Foods. Scarecrows have been displaced from their traditional role of protecting food and are now servants to the crows and their evil plans to dominate the food system. Dreaming of something better, a lone scarecrow sets out to provide an alternative to the unsustainable processed food from the factory. In the game, players will accompany the Scarecrow on his journey through four levels and deliver fresh food to the City of Plenty’s citizens. MORE

A funny thing happened to Apple’s Extraordinary Machine on the way to history’s dustbin: Somebody dropped it into the digital slipstream of the Internet, where, as songs are wont to do, it spread like a virus on P2P sites. Big Champagne, a Web concern that tracks these things, recently reported that at least 38,000 computer users had the album on their hard drives. Extraordi-nary Machine has become something of a hip media cause celebre, generating sympathetic ink in The New York Times, Newsweek, Spin and Rolling Stone-not bad for an album nobody can buy.

The attention isn’t being paid simply because Extraordinary Machine fits neatly into the always compelling narrative arc of the corporate jackboot on the neck of creativity. The fact is, Extraordinary Machine is, well, extraordinary — full of complex arrangements, richly antiqued textures and the kind of ornate West Coast pop experimentalism that drove Smile-era Brian Wilson mad. Extraordinary Machine was fashioned by Apple in collaboration with Jon Brion, the critically acclaimed producer (Rufus Wainwright, Aimee Mann) and soundtrack creator (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Punch-Drunk Love) noted for ornamenting sparkling singer/ songwriter fare with the pneumatic wheeze of old keyboards and clanking circus percussion. In short, if Willy Wonka made records, they’d sound like Jon Brion.

Apple is in fine voice, sounding wise and weary beyond her years, alternately furious and fragile, pounding the horse teeth-sometimes thunderously so-to underscore each accusation and the hall-of-mirrors recriminations that follow. Sometimes she sounds like Carole King pushed through the looking glass or Judy Garland over the rainbow. Other times she conjures fever-dream reveries in which Kate Bush meets Cypress Hill. Still other times she sounds like Bjork frolicking in the gilded palace of old-timey art-song. That this music is forbidden only deepens its considerable mystique. MORE