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[ biomechanique - live at lumpy gravy ]
Live at Lumpy Gravy
Psychosomatic Records

The great thing about live electronic shows -- the good ones anyway -- is their spontaneity. Biomechanique's Live at Lumpy Gravy is a slice of life record taken from a night in January a few years ago at the Los Angeles performance space/art gallery/restaurant of the same name. Luke Collins and Jim Goetsch -- the guys in the spotlight here -- programmed a number of rhythms into drum machines as well as some other parts into sequencers, and then got on stage with their turntables, their sound effects records, their mixers, and their samplers. Bring down the lights, hit "PLAY" and see what happens.

If you're looking to hear two guys crash and burn in front of a live audience, I've got to disappoint you. Goetsch and Collins caught the magic that night, expertly putting all the disparate pieces together into a cohesive and enjoyable whole. Goetsch, who grew up on '70s era Miles Davis and Weather Report, provides a consistent rhythm foundation on which Collins -- who lists Aphex Twin and Future Sound of London as his influences -- layers sound effects, cut-up voices and ambient washes.

It begins with "Dub Gone Jungle," a gentle introduction to the improvisational spirit of the proceedings. Complete with both dub and jungle (though more of the "land of the spider monkey and tiger" type jungle), this track also sprinkles product placements, record scratches, and a little South Seas hand drum action across synthesizer melodies and a stately bass line. "Breakbeat Mechanique" perpetuates the biomechanical idea of the setup: racks of machinery overwhelming two guys who somehow manage to tame the electrons flowing through all the pieces into a coherent structure. "Death Rap" surges along like a funeral dirge, its dub shape floating ominously around the slow tug of a record being wound backward. Occasionally Collins will let up and the record will slip forward, spitting out a brief unintelligible phrase. The voices become even more distorted on "Sound Like a Mission" as the space transmission beacon kicks in over a tight hi-hat and snare rhythm. Once these elements are in place, they start to swirl together as the rhythm section speeds up, bringing along everything else with their aggressive clatter.

One of the elements which sets music apart from the rest of the artistic endeavors is that it supports improvisation and spontaneity. In fact, in some ways, it is better live and unplanned that it is charted and mapped. Collins' and Goetsch's live experiment as Biomechanique is a great example of how electronic music lends itself to a spontaneous generation. Good show, guys. Sorry to have missed the real thing.

[ 09.16.2002 ]
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