By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
All that exists as proof of the existence of St. Louis artist Droplogic is a shiny plastic disc with the words "Droplogic, v5.0 1999" scribbled on it in Magic Marker. At one point a letter existed, but it has long since vanished into the eternal hell of press releases. But what remains is enough until the guy (or girl) who makes the strange and wonderful music on that disc contacts the paper with a bit more information.
Synthetic music that dabbles in drum & bass, curious beat-based gibberish and the occasional floating organ angst, v5.0 is a remarkable document, an oasis in the area's techno community. Sounds run from blustery beats to ecstatic rants, and the artist shows a kinship to Brazilian D&B beat head Amon Tobin, wandering blip master Aphex Twin and the out-there excursions of Autechre. The 70-plus minutes of music on the release is pure heaven for your electronic head; were someone to identify this as the next release on Warp or Rephlex Records out of the U.K., it wouldn't be much of a shock. Hey, Droplogic: Where are you?
From elsewhere in the St. Louis electronic community comes the most recent utterance from Brain Transplant: a three-song EP called Blinded by Science.
Sounding at first like a mid-'60s Morton Subotnick Moog burp, Blinded by Science gradually sneaks in the beats to accompany the gas, though the resulting chaos wouldn't work well at your local dance club. The beat disappears, reappears, accelerates and screeches to a halt, and even the most blissed-out reveler would have a hard time getting funky on it.
But the last thing on Brain Transplant's mind is hitting the Billboard dance charts; he (one guy, Chris Smentkowski) is approaching electronic music from way out in left field with the curiosity of a chemist and the skills of a computer geek. Unlike the single-minded obsessions of your average musician, content to find a subgenre be it jungle, gabber, trance, etc. and dwell on it, BT stretches on Blinded by Science, and the result is pure bliss. For info, contact the artist at email@example.com.
Who'da thunk that area guitar worshippers Grandpa's Ghost would end up in a rant on local electronic music? Their normal fare consists of the basic two-guitars-bass-and-drum setup, so it was something of a surprise to waltz into the Side Door last week and see three of them no drummer sitting on stools and fiddling with organs and synthesizers. Actually, only two of the three were fiddling with "em; guitarist Ben Hanna was fiddling, as always, with his electric guitar and moaning into the microphone.
The result was drone-y and meandering, sounding like one long freak-out. Hanna was singing; guitarist Bill Emerson, ignoring his usual instrument of choice, was sequestered near some noisy boxes spewing out static; and bassist Mark Robke was locked in a virtual echo chamber, shoving a microphone down his throat and discovering sounds buried deep inside his person. Aside from Hanna's indecipherable words and his structured guitar chords, the music seemed quite improvised and a bit self-indulgent and tedious in contrast to their past performances. You'd have liked to see them walk the middle somewhere rather than slipping off the deep end into an eternal feedback fog. But it was, er, interesting.
Grandpa's Ghost's long-delayed album is destined to eventually come out on the Fort Collins, Colo., label Upland Records (started by Joe Carducci, author of the best book of rock criticism of the "90s, Rock and the Pop Narcotic). Until then, a collection of music from Upland is out now; called White Out on Black Ice, it features three songs from Grandpa's Ghost, along with work from, among others, Spot, the producer who engineered some of the masterpieces of SST Records in the mid-'80s, including Hüsker Dü's Zen Arcade and New Day Rising.
Finally, the Neem, who were featured in these pages last week, are gigging at the Red Sea on Thursday, Aug. 19. Don't miss.