Electric Youth

Their Tetris scores will blow you away: GameBoy manipulators Colon Pipe Krew
Daniel Corrigan

Colon Pipe Krew have been messing with the laws of physics again. That's the only way to explain the mysterious happenings this afternoon at the Anomalous Research Facility, a seemingly innocuous duplex in southeast Minneapolis that serves as Krew headquarters. The half-light filtering through the living-room window moves slower than Dippity Doo. Tiny UFOs circle the room's sole candle like carousel horses. The clock has started moving backward. And a floppy-haired sprite known only as Starpawz hovers, cross-legged, two feet above the living room sofa.

"I have some great hacks for the space-time continuum," offers the Krew co-founder. "I'm wearing a wormhole ray ring now that could blow your ass back to 1367. It runs on a watch battery."

Okay, so maybe none of this really happened. Still, watching Colon Pipe Krew play their fractured IDM, compassionate noise, freeform techno, and textured drones, you swear supernatural forces are at work--especially when they perform live. Fellow co-founder Overthruster hunches forward, mad scientist style, coaxing crystalline melodies from pocket-sized musical devices. Crank Dorothy, the Krew's sole woman, stares through her long bangs, fingers running over electronic buttons like meth-head mice as she generates bleeps that resemble the latest NASA transmissions. Starpawz plays the prankster, intent on blowing up the world with wild sound. And this otherworldly sound isn't the only thing separating them from their local peers.

"We're better dancers than Faux Jean," Overthruster offers, looking very much the barbarian warrior beneath his punk mullet, as though he were ready to lock swords with Conan himself at any moment.

Starpawz adds, "We're not stuck in one mode of presentation. We can do a killer noise set one night and a totally gay techno set the next."

"We're not a band," rejoins Crank Dorothy.

These technophiles did have a flesh-and-blood drummer for a short time, though. When a few members of :| Krew (not all of the Krew's dozen members perform together live) appeared at a University of Minnesota-sponsored arts festival early in October, they found themselves with a surprise guest. Krew member 500 Eternal, deep in the midst of a feedback interlude created by three DJ mixers he'd cobbled together, was generating something like a conversation between a herd of dolphins and a flock of seagulls. Suddenly, the drummer from local pop group Coach Said Not To, who were scheduled to play between Krew sets and had already set up their gear alongside them, started pounding away blithely, oblivious to Eternal's set. To the hundred or so students in front of Rarig Center, the breach of etiquette probably seemed like deliberate collaboration--as did the group of dancers who happened to be skipping and cartwheeling across the same quad like Twyla Tharp clones in a remake of The Prisoner. "That sorta pissed me off," recalls Starpawz of the spontaneous drum solo. Which might explain the little feedback wedgies he gave Coach Said Not To's singer, tweaking the P.A. when she introduced their first song. ("Who's doing that?" she asked aloud over the mic.) Granted, the band's drummer probably didn't realize that what 500 Eternal was making was music.

The Krew's compositions are usually far less abstract than Eternal's performance suggests, despite the fact that they program their GameBoys in hex code, using Little Sound DJ software instead of the more restrictive Nanoloops. If you have no idea what that last sentence meant, let's just say that the flashing red and gray modules the Krew also uses (Korg groove boxes) just might be the most seductive electronic devices ever made. Come hither, beatmuffin, the machines seem to beckon. Twist our plastic knobs. Fill our inputs with any signal you want. Press our buttons and illuminate us from within. We can play any synth or drum machine sound you want. We will be your carnival, your airport at night.

"There are so many hacks for those things," Overthruster claims of Korg's E-series units, "I could make a Led Zeppelin song using only an ER-1 [drum machine]."

"Do it! Do it!" Starpawz enthuses, bouncing up and down on the couch. "I wanna hear that now!"

But Overthruster doesn't need the Mesozoic peregrinations of those mechanical superdudes to prove his mettle. Vociferous Reiteration, his new solo CD-R, runs the gamut from power electronics to the most delicate drones. (He humbly admits to being "the greatest techno and breakcore producer in Minneapolis.") His mastery of the Korgs is so evident that you can imagine dozens of tiny Overthrusters inside the machines, riding zeros and ones like electric bulls in a Las Vegas semiconductor.

Still, the Krew remains loyal to their favorite video game console. "The great advantage of the GameBoy is that it's like having a studio in your pocket," Starpawz explains. "Whenever I get pissed at having to set shit up, I can always just pick it up and have a good time hacking."

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