Twenty or thirty years ago, if some punk or other upstart artist wanted to make a little ideological noise, the weapons of choice would most likely have been drums, bass, and guitar. But, as Ian Svenonius has noted in these pages ("Rock as Real Estate," July 21, 2005), the real estate of musical rebellion has changed over the last several decades. To paraphrase: As increasing urban density in North America approaches levels commonly found in major European cities—such as Paris, Brussels, or Barcelona—the American "garage" band finds it increasingly difficult to afford an actual garage. The result is that radical and marginalized artists are turning to new, more space-efficient configurations—Svenonius calls them "one- or two-person computer-programmed 'electro' aggregates"—to give voice to the kind of unpopular ideas that were once the province of traditional (punk) rock bands.
Two such radical electronic cells, French trio Dat Politics and Vancouver, BC's Secret Mommy (AKA Andy Dixon of Ache Records and the now-defunct spaz-core band the Red Light Sting), will be spreading the laptop gospel this Tuesday, November 7, at the Baltic Room. Both bands elicit unexpected sounds from the ubi-quitous device, proving that small sources can produce great impacts.
Dixon abandoned the Red Light Sting in 2003 to concentrate on the solo audio experiments of Secret Mommy, which have included repurposing Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake, releasing concept records about Hawaii (Hawaii 5.0) and recreation centers (Very Rec), and producing an EP made entirely from the sounds of his own wisdom-teeth removal. His forthcoming record, Plays, is another exercise in creative restraint. Dixon booked time at former bandmate Jesse Gander's studio to record himself and friends singing and playing acoustic instruments, with the intent of creating an electronic album composed without any electrified elements beyond the recording equipment itself. Due out in February, the album will no doubt showcase Dixon's knack for transforming bizarre source material into pleasantly bouncy club tracks and cheeky IDM.
Dat Politics replace the traditional instruments for laptops without ditching the band. The Lille-based trio have been wrenching inventive noise from portable computers for six years now, exploring the varied possibilities of sample-based music and digital processing over the course of many albums. Wow Twist, released this year on Chicks on Speed Records, is their most accessible album yet, bending Dat Politics' eight-bit idiosyncrasies to more traditional pop structures. The result is the kind of album the Mario Brothers might have made if they'd ever had time to start a pop-punk band back in the '80s.
Both artists represent the limitless potential of laptop-based production to push musical and intellectual boundaries, and both are dynamic live performers, bringing more energy from behind their LCD screens than most bands do with full stacks and drum kits.
Dat Politics and Secret Mommy play Tues Nov 7 at the Baltic Room (1207 Pine St, 625-4444) with Kevin Blechdom, Kinoko, Electrosect, and Greg Skidmore, 9 pm, $7, 21+.
SATURDAY NOVEMBER 4
JAMIE LIDELL, SAFETY SCISSORS
Jamie Lidell may be the first artist in Bumbershoot's history to have actually set speakers on fire with only the incendiary power of his music; however, the truly unprecedented aspect of his performance at this year's festival was his bold improvisation and experimentation, to say nothing of his duds. Lidell loops live beat-boxing and vocals, adds glitchy beats and monstrous synths, and then croons soulfully over the entire inexplicable mix. The whole act is nothing short of spellbinding, and significantly aided by Lidell's funny and charming between-song banter. With Techgnosis. Neumo's, 925 E Pike St, 709-9467, 8 pm, $15 adv, 21+.
SUNDAY NOVEMBER 5
MOUSE ON MARS, BIRDY NAM NAM
At their last Seattle show, one-time Stereolab collaborators Mouse on Mars rocked a packed Chop Suey with a satisfying combination of live instrumentation and complex programming. Their occasionally abstract IDM becomes funkier and friendlier live, encouraging both reserved appreciation and enthusiastic dancing. With Lithops. Chop Suey, 1325 E Madison St, 324-8000, 8 pm, $12 adv, 21+.
MONDAY NOVEMBER 6
For Kid Koala, the other Canadian electronic musician/visual artist performing this week, innovative turntablism is only the beginning. The talented DJ gleefully incorporates illustration (his graphic novel, Nufonia Must Fall) and elements of cabaret (the Short Attention Span Theatre tour) into his artistic repertoire. A note on his website encourages fans to bring their parents out to his shows for a night of newfangled music made from old-timey records. With Fog. Neumo's, 925 E Pike St, 709-9467, 8 pm, $13 adv/$15 DOS, 21+.