By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
One giant leap for mankind
Transaction de Novo
Musik Von Tone Float
Timothy's Brain c/o Avant Garde
The big trend these days in experimental music--at least locally--has been to move away from hazy impressionism and zero-G soundtracks and into actual songs. Mazinga Phaser, Transona Five, and the American Analog Set have all--to varying degrees--flirted with more traditional structures on recent releases. Two important bands, however, pretty much stay their own unique courses.
Bedhead has never really cared for any of the typical music goals, preferring to fully explore the airy, atmospheric world of its music, an investigation that it continues with stellar success on Transaction de Novo. Moods shift like clouds of cigarette smoke in a partly sunlit room: pale gray in the dark--barely discernible--then a brilliantly etched against a bright background.
Many can mimic that slow-turning flow; the trick is dynamics, the way the stream is widened or constricted, smooth or roiled. Some songs--the brief disc-opening "Exhume"--continue evenly; others ("More Than Ever") build steadily. Like kids standing by a creek with a ready supply of boulders, the members of Bedhead frequently drop obstructions into the current, interrupting the surface: the roaring chorus that "Parade" churns around, or the string part that ripples "The Present." More straight ahead is "Extramundane," which sounds like "Absolutely Sweet Marie" might if Bedhead had written it. The band has always kept the idea of a "song"--rather than a soundtrack--in mind, just as they've always preferred instruments over black boxes and tape loops. Transaction de Novo is a carefully crafted offering: sometimes retiring, in other instances direct, and at times even detached, but never any less moving for their subtlety.
MIT consists of Mazinga Phaser leader Wanz Dover, Ohm's Doug Ferguson, and the Vas Deferens Organization's Matt Castille and Eric Lumbleau. Unlike Bedhead, these guys are unabashed machine musicians with absolutely no tendency toward pop song structure. That said, Musik von Tone Float is one of the warmest and friendliest examples of this kind of music you're likely to encounter; the VDO crew in particular did an excellent job of subduing its impulses toward confrontational freakiness. We're definitely in the realm of soundtrack here, running the gamut from random noises shooting through space ("tonight we sleep with the eggroll king") to slowly-building tribal stomps ("millipede"), but the whole trip is quite seamlessly constructed. A fascinating peek in a surprising direction.