Phoenecia | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Afrika Bambaataa's classic "Planet Rock," which hijacked the electro-pop of Kraftwerk for the burgeoning hip-hop nation, has influenced music the world over, but nowhere has its effect been more powerful than in Miami. The song's futuristic bass-heavy beats became the foundation for Miami bass, a genre that's still expanding today. The best known exponent of Miami bass is the lewd novelty act 2 Live Crew, but the scene has produced countless hits, from Tag Team's "Whoomp! There It Is" to Freak Nasty's "Da' Dip." In 1996 the electronica label Astralwerks released an album called Tone Capsule by a Miami group called Soul Oddity, who took the bass sound, left behind the nasty lyrics, and added weird squiggles and dark atmospherics. A year later Soul Oddity resurfaced as Phoenecia, and it was clear that Romulo Del Castillo and Joshua Kay had been listening to the English duo Autechre, whose constantly morphing, rhythmically complex electronics were also rooted in "Planet Rock." Like Autechre, on the terrific four-song Randa Roomet EP (released last year by Warp, making the two groups labelmates) Phoenecia blurs the distinction between foreground and background. Ominous synth melodies drift and mingle with snippets of funky, rubbery synthetic bass patterns and a dizzying array of beats, from staticky staccato splatter to disconnected, dissected breaks. But Del Castillo and Kay distinguish themselves by emphasizing their Miami bass bloodline; their urge to get booties shaking is never really sublimated. They'd be notable even if they were the only ones doing what they do, but they happen to be at the center of a thriving scene that's documented on their own Schematic label. On the recent compilation Ischemic Folks, fellow travelers like Push Button Objects, Gliese, and Takeshi Muto lay down similar bass-inspired beat schemes; Richard Devine, the Atlanta-based artist who opens this show, contributes three tracks that pair rigorous electro-rhythmic acrobatics with free-floating hot-tub keyboard melodies. Friday, 10:30 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo; 312-362-9707. PETER MARGASAK

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

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