Circuit Breaker

No one in this photo is having Ross's baby: Thursday-night mainstays Poor Line Condition
Tony Nelson

So where have you been? It's after 10:00 p.m., the Dinkytowner's patrons are slowly descending that spiral of intoxication, or reaching a caffeine-induced frenzy. Some guy is hunched over a laptop onstage, pulsing through a minimalist micro-masterpiece, with one hand clutching that ever-present cigarette. Or perhaps there are ten musicians gathered on and around that diminutive stage, feeling their way through a grandiose funk/dub/hip-hop improvisation. Behind them flickers the documentary film Microcosmos: Caterpillars are writhing to the beat, mantises are preying to the tune of a turntable twitch. It must be Thursday night.

If you weren't there, you were probably hunched over the sofa, cellophane-wrapped in Must See TV. Then you called your friend on the telephone and spent the next hour discussing Dr. Carter's new crop of chin stubble. So Ross and Rachel got together again, eh? Will and Grace should follow suit. Meanwhile inventive local drum 'n' bass group Poor Line Condition--the one with the live drummer--trickled its way through a soundtrack to the film The Wizard of Oz. Who needs Pink Floyd? You can play that game at home.

If you were home, you missed out: Every Thursday night for the past year, a revolving roster of local new-jazz/electro artists have convened on the Dinkytowner's stage for the Crossfaded series, providing vivid musical accompaniment to visual stimuli, and often generating a performance that's as intoxicating as anything available from the bar. A new 18-track compilation encapsulating those showcases is now available in the form of Crossfaded Vol. 1 (Firetrunk/Groove Garden). This album may be a compilation, but it's not just a random mix-tape. Working cohesively, the largely instrumental disc has the capacity to captivate the listener's attention, but it seems more content to chill in the background.

With Crossfaded Vol. 1, it's all about the mood. The album opens with DJ Celine Dijon's flute-laced, dub-beat, not-even-missing-the-kitchen-sink sound collage "Dum Dum." That track quickly segues into Poor Line Condition's restrained "Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful." Pine-needle-thin drum breaks and soft beats evoke the primness of the former Dutch colony, yet with a hint of the rebellious--like Amish in thong underwear.

While standard-bearers like Anomaly have resurfaced on the compilation, tracing figure eights with light patterns of drum 'n' bass on "Colab," Crossfaded Vol.1 also provides space for newer acts that have experimented at the Dinkytowner in the past year. Many of these artists are involved in a tightly knit community, often playing in two or three groups. A prime example is Grid, whose members have played with T and Poor Line Condition. The laptop duo's breezy "Model/Lawyer" allows whispering winds to coalesce with chimes and quiet pulses. Dosh (Martin Dosh of Fog and Lateduster) also breaks out on his own with the tense rhythmic structures of "Can't Hear Snow Falling." And the talented DJ Kasi Engler, performing under the moniker Kasio, forgoes turntables in favor of stark electronic/folk on the wistful instrumental "5:26."

Meanwhile, generous group efforts are also displayed. Lateduster offer a remixed version of "My Heart Is in My Throat," and the expansive "double trio" Science vs. Flames present their track "And the Grammy Goes to..."

It's the kind of music that this past year's Crossfaded curator James Everest hopes will be "plotting new territory" in the local music scene. Describing Crossfaded's imaginative performances, he says, "It's not just another upright bass over there; it's some guy getting crazy with the bow." Says Everest's collaborator and KFAI's Groove Garden host Jennifer Downham about the music: "As a listener, to get the nuance, sometimes it's a challenge. But if you want to pay attention, you can. Here you have a choice."

So if you've missed out on Crossfaded in the past, you've got another chance. On any given night, Dosh's one-man-wonder band could be scoring The Tramp, or the ten-piece Dijonettes could be putting the spin on "Krush Groove." Get out of the house.

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