HOW (NOT) TO SUK

          "IT WAS ALWAYS the total freaks in Colorado that liked our tapes, the real hard drug addicts. Everybody else hated them," says a bemused Steve Cruze, one-third of local trio Sukpatch, about the band's early days at music-starved Colorado State University. "They were these total Deadheads, like, smacked-out hippies--they'd just lay around and listen to nonsense all day."

          That was then; now, two years after relocating to Minneapolis, Sukpatch is the electronic indie pop band of the moment. With two solid 7-inch EPs to their credit and an aptly dubbed CD/LP, Haulin' Grass and Smokin' Ass (Slabco), in stores shortly, the scruffy young men of Sukpatch are stealthily making local rock safe for new pop formats: in this case samplers, keyboards, on-stage mixers, two turntables and a microphone.

          Cruze and fellow band members Chris Heidman and Steve Hermann construct songs with a constant awareness that "there's a million sounds out there that you can get for 50 cents a pop" in used record stores. The band works like rap producers on a bedroom budget: Onstage and in their living rooms, they inventively lay quirky, chopped-up sounds onto a bed of lazy, mid-tempo breakbeats; the mix is replete with a psychedelic haze of keyboard drones, plus "feel-so-high" harmonies recalling '80s trippers like The Jesus and Mary Chain, Spacemen 3, and Galaxie 500. Their plaintive pop is irrepressibly danceable at times, but hip hop it definitely ain't. And though it sounds like lysergic guitar rock, there's no (live) guitar to be found.

          Sukpatch's process of casting off instruments began in Colorado. Well versed in indie rock but bored with where the genre was going, the trio discovered rap and learned to make homemade tape loops on their stereos. They eventually began recording with friends under countless aliases, releasing obscure tapes through one friend's Slabco label. Among their musical allies was Boulder native Alan Sutherland, a.k.a. The Land of the Loops, whose own electronic/pop instrumental record, Bundle of Joy (Up), became a cult hit this summer.

          After a period of moving around the country separately, the three native Midwesterners regrouped in Minneapolis, where Heidman and Hermann are working toward graduate degrees in art. Initially falling in with rock bands like Saucer and Flaming Interior Decorator, Sukpatch has come to occupy a hard-to-fit niche between indie rock and dance music. Yet even though their rock audiences have been typically, maddeningly reluctant to get down and groove, the members all agree they belong to the 7th Street Entry set. "Techno songs aren't pop songs, and we write pop songs," argues Cruze. "I think that's a big difference--there isn't a pop sensibility to a lot of electronic music."

          Still, their crowning moment this year was a crossover cameo at the August 29th installment of Depth Probe, First Avenue's semi-regular techno extravaganza. Although they felt like musical aliens, it was the band's first chance to jam through a huge sound system to a large, responsive audience. "It was really weird--we didn't know what to think. We walked in there and the kids had the fluorescent lights going, and they were dancing to like gabber beats... " remembers Cruze. Heidman chimes in: "And we're like 'Damn, our beats are gonna be so slow, they're gonna hate it!' We were scared shitless, terrified." He laughs. "But actually it went over all right." (Simon Peter Groebner)

          Sukpatch performs Friday at 7th Street Entry with Bardo Pond; 338-8388.

          INTERNATIONAL GIGS

          A HERO IN Palestinian circles for his political songwriting, Marcel Khalife is also an orchestral composer with numerous awards to his credit. In town on a rare U.S. tour this Friday, he'll wear yet another cap--that of virtuoso on the Middle Eastern lute known as the oud. His recent double CD, Jadal, features his quartet, who will accompany him here: longtime associate Charbel Rouhana on second oud, Abboud Al Saadi on bass, and Ali El Khatib on percussion (mainly the frame drum known as a riq). Jadal is a single, 78-minute composition that spins through a number of dazzling motifs; more baroque than, say, the incantatory style of Hamza El Din, the oud work here seems to echo a wide variety of national traditions (in particular, I'm reminded of Portuguese guitarist Carlos Paredes), including Western jazz and classical music. It's beautiful, involving, and frequently dazzling music, and since this qualifies as a bona fide Cultural Event for the Middle Eastern community, you should arrive early. ($17 advance/$19 day of show. 8 p.m. Cedar Cultural Centre, 416 Cedar Ave., Mpls.; 338-2674.)

          For West African music fans who have longed for more acoustic music in the sets of stars like Salif Keita, Baaba Maal, and Youssou N'Dour, Sunday's concert by Guinée's Prince Diabate & Amara Sanoh is a chance to hear an uninterrupted evening of acoustic music from two masters. Prince Diabate sings traditional-style Mandingo music in various tongues and plays the kora--the West African gourd harp that usually has around 25 strings. He's a virtuoso player with a good deal of percussive and melodic tricks up his wide sleeve. With his partner, Amara Sanoh, sharing vocal duty, they make up something of a Sonny Terry-Brownie McGhee of Motherland blues music. ($12/$14 at the door/$10 students. 7:30 p.m. Cedar Cultural Centre, 416 Cedar Ave., Mpls.; 338-2674.)

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