Instrumental electronic musicians have it tough onstage: when you've only got a DAT and a Powerbook to work with, it's hard to do something that's interesting to watch; it's even hard to improve on your albums, except by making everything louder. But IQU (pronounced "ee-koo"), a hyperactive trio based in Olympia, Washington, has absorbed the DIY rock ethic of its hometown, and with its constant touring--most recently as part of the Flaming Lips' Music Against Brain Degeneration Revue--the band has developed an assertive, unruly, and very physical stage presence. Front man Kento Oiwa, who calls himself K.O., looks like he's fighting his way out of a thicket of instruments: his setup includes a pair of beat boxes, several keyboards, two turntables (IQU's only vocals come from the records he scratches or samples), a theremin, and a guitar--and he's usually grappling with a couple devices at once. On one side of him Aaron Hartman (from Old Time Relijun) slaps a great big acoustic stand-up bass, and on the other Michiko Swiggs taps out simple drones and plinks on her keyboard, keeping the mood playful. The beats are all canned, but they're not from the usual cannery: splashy and messy, they erupt into hiccups of double-time drum 'n' bass, then settle back into antsy tapping. IQU has the same sort of relationship to current dance music that New Order had to the dance music of the early 80s, displacing the music's devices, rhythms, and repetitions into novel forms, more performed than programmed--the track title "Temptation," on last year's Chotto Matte a Moment! (K), was clearly a salute. Formerly known as Icu (which means "to go" in Japanese), IQU changed its name after a New York band called I.C.U. threatened legal action; its first release since this rechristening is the brand-new EP Girls on Dates, a collaboration with Portland spoken-word artist Miranda July. This show, however, will probably preview the album IQU's got planned for this winter. Tuesday, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. DOUGLAS WOLK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Micahel Lavine.