I’m The Captain, Where We Going? (2006)

Duration: 49:34

Mastered by Renaud Person
Illustration by Pars Kid
CD Layout design by Michael Evans
Produced and Engineered by James van Leuven
Mixed by Phil Ek

Amy Blaschke – Vocals (Daylight Breaking)
Brent Arnold – Cello (I’m The Captain)
Elias Avinger – Classical Guitar (Double Crossin Lil Rat!)
Leigh Gable – Bass (Curtains)
Krista Warden – Vocals (Where Is It?, Why Is It?, Oranges, Little Tiny)
Elisabeth Perle – Vocals (Backside Grind pt2)
Djoule Chailloux – Bass (Backside Grind 2)
François Juin – Guitar (Accoustic Why Is It)
Bill Jones – Trumpet (Curtains, I’m The Captain)
Jen Kozel – Violin (Daylight Breaking)
Aerielle Levy – Cello (Why Is It)
Andy Sells – DJ Scratching (I’m The Captain)
Sarah Standard – Violin (I’m The Captain, Oranges)
James Van Leuven – Bass, Drums, Guitar, Keyboards, Composition

(01) Basement I.D. 1:57
(02) Soon The World 0:23
(03) Backside Grind 2 3:19
(04) Where Are We? 0:54
(05) Double Crossin Little Rat! 2:35
(06) Oranges 4:48
(07) Little Tiny 4:01
(08) The Missing Boat 2:39
(09) Daylight Breaking 3:14
(10) Curtains 7:10
(11) Why Is It? 4:55
(12) I’m The Captain, Where We Going? 13:39

(secret song) Accoustic version of Why Is It?

PRESS Reviews

Mura Masa | Lovesick ASAP Rocky Four Tet Remixes

let’s go with plan b…

plan b is the seattle based creation of james van leuven. originally the drummer of post-punk band automaton, his solo efforts vibrantly have shared a welcomed change to the softer sides of downtempo. over the past few years, he has personally recorded and distributed his own work, presenting a collection of trip-hop based sounds mixed within the art of experimentation. stylized by instrumentals, hypnotic french female vocals, perfectly fitting samples, penetrating deep bass and rich textured beats provide an automatic movie-like soundtrack to simply everything new, foreign and surrounding.

i’m the captain, where we going? is plan b’s first full-length album that was recorded in 2006. created over the years while touring the u.s. and europe, the album features guest musicians: singer amy blaschke, cellist brent arnold (built to spill), violinist jen kozel (elliot smith) and violinist sarah standard (carrisa’s weird).

backside grind part ii
the missing boat

on plan b’s myspace, please enjoy more special music to download and listen to, including these favorite songs below.

released in 2004, plan b created *un poquito de tanta verdad* as a soundtrack to the feature documentary by jill friedberg.

digan la verdad

plan b’s debut ep *like a ship sailing* was recorded in 2001 and shared on the record label luckyhorse industries.



The Stranger , January 30, 2007
By Eric Grandy
PLAN B – I’m the Captain, Where We Going? review 

Seattle multi-instrumentalist/producer James van Leuven tours Europe and the states with his trusty laptop “the same way a singer-songwriter travels with their guitar,” writing and recording as he goes. While Where We Going does possess a certain sense of global restlessness—thanks in large part to the French/English vocals of collaborators Elisabeth Perle and Krista Warden—what really marks it as traveling music is how well it alternately insulates and melts into the background, each essential for scoring days spent on trains and nights spent in hostels.

A few of the album’s tracks are genuinely ambient, and many more of them are just unobtrusively soft micro pop. But the humorous and heartfelt collage against capitalism, “Double Crossin’ Little Rat,” is a fully engrossing contraption of armchair hiphop assembled from sampled back-porch guitar strumming, dusty beats, and vintage political rhetoric. The video for the song (not included on the CD, but easily found on the internet) is an adorable, sepia-toned send-up of the Soviet Kino-pravda in which assembly-line workers at a Moog factory are agitated into a breakdancing work stoppage.

Other engaging tracks include “Backside Grind, pt. II,” in which lovely French singing is surrounded by ghostly samples and occasionally overwhelmed by echoing guitar fuzz, and the psychedelic drum ‘n’ bass odyssey of “Curtains.” Throughout much of Where We Going however, van Leuven seems content just creating pleasant atmospheres.


Seattle Sound Magazine, January, 2007
By Joseph Riippi

In the last month of 2006, the Billboard 200 saw at its peak the latest record from Dr. Dre protege, The Game, followed directly by fellow rapper Akon. “I Wanna Love You,” Akon’s duet with Snoop Dogg, had already conquered multiple singles charts. Popular music is full of these overlapping palimpsests –one record succeeds because of its relationship or likeness to what came before it. The Game bulds on the originality of Dre; Akon builds to Snoop. For an artist of originality to intersect with mass appeal, a back catalog must have already built a dedicated fancase(see Radiohead’s last three records, The Beatles post-1965, and U2 for examples).

But Plan B’s captivating new record, I’m The Captain, Where We Going?, faces a different issue.

A look at the current top 10 suggests that the price of popularity totals a Christian country sensibility, a rap album with plenty of renowned guest appearances, or Josh Groban’s hair. Yet as I’m The Captain begins, creaking footsteps establish a meter in found-sound that bespeaksa high level of instrumental prowess (iced with the production help of the incomparable Phil Ek). The emergence of electronic harps and drums articulate an elliptical instrumental and the record’s defiantly unpopular genre –non-house electro-pop. In short, mood music. In order to find success with I’m The Captain, James van Leuven (the man behind the moniker) must overcome easy comparisons to the recent work of bands like Air and the Cocteau Twins. Binding to them risks being overshadowed by them. Why listen to Philip Glass when you already have Terry Riley?

As the third track and first proper song, “Backside Grind pt. II,” begins (following 27 seconds of distorted Animaniacs samples), a thick “La Femme D’Argent” bassline and French vocals (beautifully pronounced by Elisabeth Perle) tie van Leuven and his vessel firmly to the Mediterranean dock of French electronica. But as the song and album progress, the listener is greeted by subtle surprises. Intricate delicacies on the sweeping “Daylight Breaking” and entropic declines like those of “Curtains” elicit a tension and suspense that brilliantly illuminate the misdirection and loss of the record’s title. In truth, the deeper one listens to van Leuven’s creation, the further one descends into a world of sound altogether gorgeous and better than any initial expectations. May the masses lend him their ears. – JOSEPH RIIPPI

Xlr8r Downloads, November 2006
Xlr8r Staff
Don’t be fooled by the title of Seattle-based Plan B’s first full-length I’m The Captain, Where Are We Going? Spearheaded by James van Leuven, Plan B know exactly what direction they’re headed with their blend of rock, pop, and electronic. Crisp, programmed beats and wobbly guitar notes make an unlikely pairing with the feather-like quality of the vocals, yet somehow the many musical elements, along with the numerous guests artists, merge into a single, enjoyable entity on the album.

Tonight Go with Plan B
The Stranger: Line Out : September 2006
Seattle’s Plan B are throwing a CD-release bash tonight at the War Room with sonic comrades Foscil, M. Evans, and Hidden Habitats (DJs Bumble Bee, Kamui, and Hideki). I’m the Captain, Where We Going? (Fourthcity), Plan B’s first disc since 2003’s Keepsake EP, brings much reason to celebrate. James van Leuven & Co. have expanded their sound palette, embellishing their hiphop foundation with orchestral grandeur, gorgeous female vocals, and various string instruments that evoke old Europa and Gabor Szabo’s fluent ethno jazzadelia. Recorded in Seattle and in various European cities, I’m the Captain comes freighted with blissful atmospheres, dreamy melodies, unconventional textures, and transporting, head-nodding beats. And on the title track and “Curtains,” Plan B construct their most ambitiously cosmic compositions to date. I thought somebody had slipped in a Miles Davis disc from 1970 for a while there.

Here’s the Plan B lineup for tonight:
James van Leuven: Drums/Laptop/Bass Guitar
Bill Jones: Trumpet
Sarah Standard (Carissa’s Wierd): Violin
Anita Rendall: Violin
Adam Swan (Foscil, Truckasaurus): Keyboards
Pat Kearney (Automaton): Bass
Dann Gallucci (Murder City Devils, Modest Mouse): Guitar
Krista Warden: Vocals
Leigh Gable: Keyboards/Bass


The Stranger Weekly Newspaper, Feb 15, 2006
Alternate States, Alternate Mates
Plan B Have a Better Way

If there’s one thing we gleaned from Bush’s recent State of the Union address, it’s that we need to keep it zipped. Of course the president didn’t actually say it, but from the domestic surveillance program to Cindy Sheehan’s arrest for wearing an antiwar T-shirt, the message was clear: Voices of dissent are, to this administration, a threat on par with terrorism. Better to stay silent and keep to yourself.

Even though he’s usually holed up in a basement twiddling knobs, Plan B’s frontman, James van Leuven, feels the malcontent seeping in. “There is definitely something going on today with hope and fear, security and freedom,” says van Leuven. The observation may seem obvious, but it is particularly important coming from someone deemed a “laptop musician.” With our search-engine queries being cached and turned over to intelligence agencies, we find our salvific global connectivity being bucked off the ass it rode in on—the home computer. It makes this a strange time for music; many artists have become almost desperately political in a time when being so has become increasingly dangerous.

The evidence is in Plan B’s music. Drawing equally from IDM, ambient, indie pop, and hiphop, van Leuven’s work with his ensemble (well, ensembles—we’ll get to that) is juggling more complex sonic metaphors, inclining to more accurate—if not outright—reflections of what’s going on around us. On “Systemitis,” a track from their Keepsake EP, Plan B pit a lyrically evocative trumpet solo against a sneering drum line. Various synth voicings and samples create a nagging interplay of mini-discords. It’s a sound that differs markedly from the 2002 release, Like a Ship Sailing—a downtempo affair with some nascent impetuosities.

Now that those mini-discords are manifesting in our opaque political climate, van Leuven and friends are kicking it up several notches. On the newest album, I’m the Captain, Where We Going?, the group heat up the bpms and delve into more abstract territory. “Curtains” was born out of van Leuven’s consideration of “corruption in government and… the way our castes are built to empower the rich and cripple the poor.” Like most everyone, he realizes that such a construct cannot last. The track sends the entire mass into a frenzied fracas that rends the curtain with a spectacular blast of noise and distortion. The unholy of holies now laid bare, the track ends in a troubled and desolate soundscape where one can hear the seeds of some new order to come.

When it comes to bringing masses to a musical huddle, James van Leuven is a bit of a maestro. A serendipitous meeting at his first show in London won him a new label (ggoo22) and a bevy of musicianly friends, some of whom he adopted into the Plan B family. When he tours, he has two crews—U.S. and Europe—that can overlap and interchange depending on the city, date, and availability of the individuals.

Van Leuven is big on a sense of community and participation. Now he’s shepherding in his home pastures: Working with Andy Rohrmann of Scientific American, he will audition an ensemble of 12 to 20 musicians to create what he calls a Laptop Orchestra. The difficulty will be balancing composition and improvisation, he says, especially since the laptop is not given to spontaneity and its wielders are used to being solely responsible for their total music output. But it’s projects like this that will coax the laptop out of its cradle and grow it into an instrument capable of shouldering its own virtuosos.

When asked what kinds of music he’s currently enjoying, van Leuven says, “Oh, the listening question…” His refreshing straightforwardness makes his reply even more surprising. He likes digging through old punk favorites, dub, and soundtracks, but his heart is in the subtleties and polyrhythms of Latin folk music, its unselfconscious alternations of various time signatures. The reason is clear: “My approach to songwriting is different, I think. I confuse singer-songwriters when I ask them to play my songs. I am fundamentally a songwriter, but I write from the drum stool. It’s different when you think that way. My approach to songwriting is more akin to soul music, funk, jazz, Cuban, Mexican folk, hiphop, sample-based music, dance music—music that puts the beat as the central idea of the song and then starts building from there. [They] all share this principle; it’s the beat that makes it that style. I believe in that principle, but I don’t necessarily stick to fitting myself into any one genre.”

Plan B is, from the ground up, inherently centered not on the ego or the Music Maker, but on the music itself. The beat is fundamental, calling into action whatever instruments and personages that it requires. That’s the reason for all the numerous musicians, collaborations, instruments, and genre smatterings. It is music being made out of its own necessity; it asks to be heard.
Van Leuven is into beats for another reason: He loves to dance. In his early days, he’d perform live remixes of Plan B cuts and use drum breaks to breakdance for the audience. It’s a connection that he’s putting to use at the end of the year when he heads to Austria, where his compositions will be fully orchestrated into the accompaniment for a modern-dance production.
When we start getting into music-nerd talk, van Leuven says, “I really need to be going. My girlfriend wants to go salsa dancing tonight,” proving an important point about him and his work: Yes, we can stick in our earbuds and dissent quietly with the music, but our protest is more powerful when together we take up plan B and baile.