A lot has changed for Cleo's Apartment since it released its last album three and a half years ago.
The group added a vocalist, Crystal Fields, and features a new DJ, Kelix Williams. Cleo's Apartment spent about two years writing and recording "Off at the Shores," which will be unveiled at an album release show Saturday at the Vaudeville Mews.
"You can kind of put the album on a timeline - some of our later songs are first on the album and some earlier songs are later," keyboard player Mike Huss said. "You can hear some textural differences between them that stretch over two years, but we think it ended up meshing together pretty well."
Cleo's Apartment has shifted its focus over the years, starting as a more improvisational, electronica-focused group consisting of just Huss and former DJ Jeff Blanchard. Adding Fields meant the group's songs became more structured, with the singer taking on more of the songwriting responsibility. Rapper Aeon Grey and saxophonist Tommy Dogget collaborated on the album, which features mostly original songs, along with two tracks from Cleo's Apartment's 2008 EP: "Wild Flowers" and "Noise Complaint #12."
"The recording process was fun. We pretty much threw any kind of tech we had in the room at the same time," Huss said. "Digital things, analog things, whatever media we could use to texture and edit sounds."
The album includes disco-influenced songs like "Two Little Words," and more tracks that focused on songwriting, like "Lions on Hiatus." "Rags and Rum" is in Spanish, with the band turning to local rapper Phoenix to help translate lyrics.
"That was a tricky part, because if you translate the lyrics directly into Spanish it doesn't rhyme," Huss aid. "He had to use a lot of slang. If we used traditional Spanish, it wouldn't sound right. We don't know exactly how proper the sound is."
The band is planning some shows in Kansas City and Omaha over the winter, then will head out on a full tour in the spring. The band collaborated with Jurassic 5 rapper Akil the MC on a song that should be out next year, and Huss has also been performing more Cleo's Apartment DJ sets, mashing the band's songs with music by Propellerheads, the Beastie Boys and Velvet Underground. The performances help keep the Cleo's Apartment name out there when the entire band can't perform.
"The DJ sets started happening out of necessity, and that fact that I wanted to experiment with some new software," Huss said. "It's more of a 130-BPM dance set. It's something to do, but it doesn't really compare to the full band."