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TORCH SONGS: The science fiction of music, electronica, may still be an underground phenomenon locally, but nationally and internationally it's all over the place, from office soirees to fashion shows and car commercials to bar mitzvahs. You can hear it thumping out of loft windows, the clockwork bass feeding on its own repetition.

The music has always brought in the wee-hours crowd, the nocturnal groovers who turn drunkenness and darkness into energy, dancing away their stupors in a cascade of strobe lights. Blink, though, and those clubs are gone, replaced the next day by another.

Erik Carlson explains that the newly formed Locuna Records is "the brainchild of Shawn Donoho, who thought the St. Louis area needed a premier electronic label." Gravida by Torch, Locuna's debut, successfully sidesteps prog rock, dance rock and the dreaded New Age.

In the custody of Torch auteur Josh Rowan, no walls can contain the music's ever-growing space; in not having the burden of meticulously recording guitars and vocals, the mostly instrumental Gravida sounds as clear as the mind of a monk. On top of what might be termed astro-jazz, "Piller Song" lays a repetitive buzz that sounds like an electric shaver going off and on. After a soft vocal passage fades in, then away, the song reconfigures into suspenseful bad-trip minimalism. "The Ritual of Putting on Shoes" steps in like a funeral march looking for a corpse, then flirts with a pretty piano melody that resembles Francis Lai gone Dada. "Blueline" is a wailing ocean liner that tips over in a wave of feedback. Rowan "holed up in his studio" to record Gravida, says Carlson.

"We're into more melodic kinds of stuff," offers the publicist. And you can hear it; Gravida is like Kraftwerk sans the herky-jerky caprice, or an approach you might call Eno-core. With its inward-looking (and forward-looking) take on electronic music, this one-man band called Torch actually carries itself. You can find it at most record stores that stock local music, or you can email torch@locuna.com or write P.O. Box 78342, St. Louis, MO 63178.

-- Jordan Oakes

 
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