Out & About

In the Disco Biscuits' kitchen, beneath the grimy glitterball that's really a bong, roly-poly Phisheads and dead-headed trance fans take turns cutting the astral rug while scratching each others' backs, humming a hymn of solidarity that's like a solar sunspot with a touch of gray. The Pennsylvania-based granola godhead of the burgeoning "trance fusion" scene--spot-weld the spiraling guitar swaths and hippy-dippy Cheez Whiz of improv-based rock to the Teutonic thud and hippy-dippy Cheez Whiz of streamlined trance--the Biscuits are working hard to take jam-band culture into the 21st century, incorporating instead of ignoring the technological advances the dance-music community has made since the Dead's grateful started scrawling things like alt.music.jerrylives into their tape-trading logs.

Theirs is a community populated by bands with names like Lake Trout and Plexus, with people who woke up one day to realize that the ways jam-band kids and raver kids approach their music, and the ways that music functions within their respective cultures, are startlingly similar. Which is really kind of a seismic shift, in a way: As any high-schooler can tell you, the nerds always hate the jocks, and the jocks always hate the stoners, but what if the nerds and the stoners joined forces? Not to beat the jocks at their own game--sports suck, man--but to create their own little marginalized utopia, where the music never stops and the ganja and the gigabytes tangle like crimson and clover?

You'd get records like They Missed the Perfume, the Biscuits' new full-length. Their third album, it's a triumph of Frankensteinian sound science, full of noodly-ass guitar licks, creamy synth pads and propulsive breakbeats that coalesce to birth an intriguingly offbeat specimen--even if it's not the "pretty sick way to make music" drummer Steve Altman told jambands.com it was last summer. Check out the 14-minute "Mindless Dribble" and see if you don't have to keep your hemp necklace from floating off around your head. Still, however deftly the Biscuits fuse their twin inspirations, the end product, like most of the trance fusion stuff, is an almost unbearably corny monster. Much of Perfume smells a whole hell of a lot like something Nintendo might've cooked up 10 years ago to juice up Super Mario Bros., with tiresome, sub-Tolkein nature sound effects (rain forest! bird sanctuary! babbling brook!) filling in the gaps the band hasn't figured out how to bridge yet, and an overarching production scheme that swings too closely to new-age mush to escape the occasional smirk.

But the Disco Biscuits and their joking, toking brethren are onto something, even if the glowstick's too slippery to catch right now. Plunk down your dollars or polished stones (or whatever these kids consider valuable) tonight and luxuriate in the sound of outsiders comparing battle scars.