By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
"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.
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.)
Finally, Monday will be a night to test the healing powers of rhythm. Olodum are a large (23 member) drum and dance ensemble born from the Bahian bloco of the same name, a neighborhood arts and culture group with 2,500-plus members that parades for Carnival and sponsors educational programs for its Afro-Brazilian constituents. The African element is, of course, most important in the group's music, which is as complex and awe-inspiring as the headiest drum & bass club jams. Powered by the thunder of those big-ass surdo drums, the group lays vocals over samba and samba-reggae beats in a hypnotic undertow that's tough to resist. It made a pretty impressive effect on Paul Simon's "The Obvious Child," which first introduced the group to U.S. ears, but believe me when I say that was just a tease. Vinx is a drum maestro who is something of what Bobby McFerrinmight be if he'd embraced the conga over the baton. Charming, supple-voiced, and playful, he's a one-man percussion band--with songs--who'll woo you hard. ($12/$15 at the door. 9 p.m. First Avenue, 701 First Ave. N., Mpls.; 338-8388.) (Will Hermes)
AFTER SIX YEARS as the Cities' definitive metal/groove/rap outfit, Brutus is calling it quits. Drummer John "Servo" DeSalvo, who moonlights as a sampler/programmer in Chemlab, is leaving for New York to concentrate on the latter band. Brutus's guiding force Mike Johnson will henceforth concentrate on his even-heavier Legion of Boom. The full roster of Brutus members, past and present, will reunite Thursday for one final blowout at the Mirage. The Legion headlines, with newer groove-ghoulies Inveigh and Release opening. ($4. 8 p.m. 2609 26th Ave. S., Mpls.; 729-2387.) Meanwhile on Thursday, Mountain Singers and Smattering play the Mighty Fine Gallery, with Metaluxe and the debut of wonderboy Marko 1-2-3 (call 331-5851).
The June disbanding of Pimentos for Gus can now be filed under "blessing in disguise." The reason: Pimentos spinoff Mike Merz & the C@n O' Worms, with their wonderful new concept album Buzzkill Nation. Recorded piecemeal over the past year, the record has a diverse enough list of guest stars--from Willie Wisely to the above-mentioned John DeSalvo to members of Rex Daisy, Steeplejack, National Dynamite, the former Pimentos, and even Milk. Merz stitches together an eerie patchwork of dark, ambitious acoustic/electric folk, with the full control of a solo record working completely in his favor. Notable is the bitterly satirical, seven-minute "Rock & Roll" ("You know you're at a radio-sponsored show," sings Merz, "When no matter who the band is/The guy sitting next to you says/Oh--he sounds like Elvis Costello"). For the most part, Merz avoids the slight gaudiness that put me off his former band, and at its best Buzzkill Nation is a complex, beautiful record. The release party is Wednesday, October 9 at Bryant-Lake Bowl, with guest Eric Zeigenhagen ($3. 10 p.m. 810 W. Lake St., Mpls.; 825-8949). (Groebner)