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Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Neotropic/Pole/J-Rocc & Rhettmatic




Billed as "Night of the Round Tables," this extravaganza ought to paint a pretty convincing picture of just how amazingly diverse turntable-based music making has become in 1999. Mr Brubakers Strawberry Alarm Clock (Ntone), the second album from Londoner Riz Maslen, aka Neotropic, recalls DJ Shadow in terms of density and the use of unobvious sources--like hammer dulcimer runs and operatic singing, in her case--but you'd never mistake one for the other. On "Ultra Freaky Orange" she sends a crushing, stuttering barrage of big beats reverberating through a sonic cavern, then on "Vacetious Blooms" she shifts effortlessly into lounge-flavored easy listening. Maslen isn't afraid to dabble with more traditional song forms either, incorporating the Vegas croon of Paul Jason Fredericks on "Insane Moon" and the sinister wailing of PJ Harvey copycat Nina Barry on "Gutted." Fredericks will augment Maslen's turntable- and computer-generated din for this performance. Pole, aka Stefan Betke, is as stingy with sounds as Neotropic is generous. A sort of analog counterpart to Oval's Markus Popp, Betke masters vinyl records for the Berlin label Chain Reaction and uses a defective 4-pole Waldorf filter (a tool of his trade) to make his own music. On his debut album, CD 1 (Matador), which sounds a lot less like Oval than like Mad Professor's dub stripped bare, he manipulates glitches, clicks, and pops over rubbery bass lines like a drunk running around Three Mile Island with a Geiger counter. Sometimes they speed up to simulate the frantic rhythms of drum 'n' bass; sometimes they decay slowly, like a rim shot on an old King Tubby record. (Betke's recent follow-up, CD 2, is a bit less imaginative: the bass lines steal the show, while the clicks and pops seem like mere garnishes.) Neither Pole nor Neotropic remotely qualifies as hip-hop, but neither would exist without it, so it's kind of cool to see them on a bill with excellent old-school DJs J-Rocc and Rhettmatic of LA's World Famous Beat Junkies crew. From the former's smooth track mixing on the excellent new compilation Soundbombing II (Rawkus) to the latter's sprawling two-CD mix World Famous Beat Junkies Volume 2 (Blackberry), these turntable wizards do it all, from wild scratching and beat juggling to merely selecting the greatest records in underground hip-hop. Beck's touring DJ, Swamp, and locals Sole, Warp, Jesse de la Peña, and JC also spin, and early in the evening there'll be a screening of the DJ documentary Battle Sounds, followed by a Q & A session with director John Carluccio. Sunday, 9 PM, Metro and Smart Bar, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203 or 773-549-4140. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Strada.

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