Ui and Electric Company

Southern Records

Electric Company
Studio City

HEY KIDS! CAN'T get work done in the office with alt-rock in the background? Try electronica! Can't get a record deal because your singer is an addict? No worries: Drugs are applauded in the millennial dance hall! Get out your pocket protectors and wear your horn-rims: If you haven't heard, in this day and age, Whitey Gets Beats!

But how can it be? Anal-retentive Episcopalians aren't supposed to create dance music. The clenched-assers are only here to write about it, to decide what gets press coverage and...ohh. Hold on a minute, I see: Both of these critic-turned-DJ projects are suffused with the inky whiff of the scribe. How sick we writers must be to see the mumbling savants that are club DJs get the glory and the coochie.

But wait! Pundits can will themselves into existence and join the revolution too. If I write it (or write about it), it therefore is. So why not jump in. And thanks to laptops, would-be beat wonks don't even have to leave their apartments. In 1998, they can mix music at home instead of mixing with the rabble. Naturally these writer types are eclectic. Sampling has replaced the unpretentious audiophile with the evangelical pedant. So Miles Davis finally convenes with Run-D.M.C., Stockhausen with Jimmy Castor. And, to be honest, both of these CDs, Lifelike and Studio City, are pretty good. I only scoff because I'm bitter.

Ui, led by a card-carrying rock critic (Sasha Frere-Jones), started out pretty no-wave, and they were occasionally too technically adept for their own good, with a two-bass lineup and a drummer with an unfortunate predilection for white reggae. And they can still sound like the kind of guys found playing air guitar outside our nation's higher institutions of guitar technology. But they also understand the secret history of oppositional rhythm, where PIL meets Fela meets Bambaataa meets "Last Night a DJ Saved My Life."

Ui's album, Lifelike, is almost entirely sample-based and retro in the most contemporary way possible--even when they're sampling themselves. Which means that Eno-inspired experiments in rhythm predominate. It also means that musical ideas often aren't entirely developed--all the better for you to stick your own brain in there. Besides, lack of development is as close as we get to punk-derived lo-fi nowadays. And remember, they said the same thing about Remain in Light 17 years ago.

Electric Company is the brainchild of Brad Lanier, formerly of Medicine, which was always more of a well-produced essay on sound than a band. So it makes sense that he'd try to mix musique concrete with drum 'n' bass, and the results are just annoying enough to work. I think I caught Dionne Warwick's "Deja Vu" for a half second, but I didn't catch much more. Yet, it's actually quite fun not getting the references and letting someone else be the critic for a change. Almost makes you want to get out of the business entirely and start up a dairy farm.

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